To address these twin problems, Miller took two distinct approaches. First, he created a resourceful and environmentally-friendly way to re-use the plastic that was dumped in the landfills. He wanted to mix plastic with another element to make it more durable. His immediate thought was concrete.
“Concrete is simple to work with, can render both simple and complex geometries, depending upon the forms, and is universally available,” Miller said.
He granulated plastic that would be otherwise headed to landfills and included it in a cement mix. The concrete he created is just as strong as traditional concrete made with completely mined aggregate. By reclaiming and integrating plastic in the concrete mix, he eliminated the need to recycle the plastic and spared both the financial and environmental cost of mining virgin aggregate.
Miller’s second approach took the contaminated soil from the brownfields and combined it with portland cement into both a wet and dry process to create bricks. The bricks he created withstood harsh rains and the freeze thaw process.
“It was my intention to establish a protocol by which these sites might be addressed using a common denominator (portland cement) that is inexpensive, regularly available, and easy to work with,” Miller said.
Though the competition only required students to conceptualize a design, Miller went one step further. He actually created the sustainable application he designed and used the concrete to build a screen and a wall. His extra efforts proved that his design was not only innovative, but also viable for real-world applications.
Dedication to Sustainable Design
Miller has made the transition from university to the real world rather smoothly. Upon graduating, he accepted a position at The Architectural Team in Chelsea, Massachusetts.
Sustainable developments are still one of his top priorities. He is currently working toward his license and getting LEED certified.
“I’d like to see more research into what other materials that would otherwise be destined for landfill, can be mixed with concrete and fashioned into building components,” Miller said.
In the meantime, award-winning applications such as Henry Miller’s are continuing to grow the possibilities of sustainable design.