Students from the Eindhoven University of Technology have spent six years developing ice as a building material, trying to take advantage of the fact that twelve percent of the land on Earth is permanently covered in snow or ice. After a few notable projects the group is now raising funds for China’s Harbin Ice Festival in early 2018.
Pykrete is the group’s building material of choice, a composite material with a six to one ice-to-pulp ratio. I always hear pykrete mentioned in relation to a Mythbusters episode and a proposed World War II airship, but there are several articles and videos touting the material as ‘bulletproof ice.’
The Structure of the Built Environment at TU/e previously made news with the world’s largest ice dome in 2014. The dome was built in Juuka Finland with a diameter of 30 meters and a height of ten meters. Construction of the dome required an inflatable inner structure and the pykrete formed around it. The group’s other major project was a 50 meter bridge built from ice in 2015, again built in Juuka. That bridge followed the notes of Leonardo Da Vinci, subjecting itself only to compression loads.
Harbin is chosen both for the ice festival and its reliable cold climate. The Flamenco tower is designed at a height of 30 meters with light elements meant to make it a focal point of the festival. Eindhoven’s team hopes that the tower will raise awareness for sustainable building materials and help to spur research into pykrete for future construction uses. The campaign page notes that environmental impact is lessened because only local water, wood and soil are used in construction of the structures.
This is a great project that showcases new sustainable building materials and also is committed to education and development of students. The group’s website is full of great information but clumsy in navigation, a Facebook page also exists. This current Kickstarter campaign ends on October 19 but I hope to be reading about new ice structures and projects for decades to come.