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March 2012
Price Supports Papercrete Research

Keast & Hood Co. Associate Jonathan Price, PE, CDT, LEED AP, supported the research of a Villanova University master’s degree candidate. Shane Moran investigated material properties of adobe blocks made with papercrete for his civil/environmental engineering thesis. Papercrete is a mixture of sand, cement, water, and newspaper pulp patented and first used commercially in the 1920s.

Moran’s research was spurred by interest in durable, low-cost, environmentally responsible materials for affordable housing. Although papercrete has been used for residential construction in the southwestern US, little research has demonstrated its load-bearing characteristics or whether it complies with International Building Code requirements for adobe block.

Price worked with Moran to develop and test eight mixtures with varying contents of cement, sand, and supplementary materials. Compressive, thermal, and absorption characteristics were evaluated and compared to building code requirements in order to determine the legitimacy of papercrete as a construction material. Of the eight mixtures tested, none complied with code requirements for compressive strength or absorption based on current specifications for adobe. However, when used as an infill material or built compositely with other load-bearing materials, papercrete shows promise as both a building envelope material and as an insulator.

Pictured, left to right: Jon Price, Shane Moran, and academic advisor Dr. Aleksandra Radlinska.

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