Material researchers and Ph.D. students at Imperial College London, Sam Draper and Barney Shanks have won the 2022 OBEL AWARD for Seratech, a solution for carbon-neutral concrete. With a special focus this year on “embodied emissions”, the OBEL AWARD jury selected scientists to obtain the architecture award to “encourage innovative cross-disciplinary solutions to the challenges of climate change”.
Succeeding to the 2021 laureate, the 15-minute city concept by Professor Carlos Moreno, to 2020’s Anandaloy, a community building made from mud in Bangladesh by Anna Heringer, and Junya Ishigami’s Water Garden in Japan, winner of the 2019 edition, Seratech is the fourth winner of this new international prize for architectural achievement.
Seratech is a technology developed by Sam Draper and Barney Shanks that can eliminate the CO₂ footprint of concrete. It “captures industrial CO₂ emissions directly from flues and produces a carbon negative cement replacement material, silica. When this silica is used in combination with Portland cement, the carbon capture associated with producing the silica means the concrete products can be zero carbon”. Still at a lab level, but easy to implement, this product uses waste CO2 and mineral olivine as raw material, abundant globally. Moreover, the process and equipment needed for this technology are the same ones used in concrete production, requiring no significant shifts in the industry.
We want to highlight the importance of collaboration between academia, industry, and the work of architects. That's why the OBEL AWARD is great because it's essentially forcing this collaboration, making us take notice of each other, and getting that interdisciplinary work happening. I can't wait to see some of the brilliant architects take this material and do some weird and wonderful things with it. -- Barney Shanks
Explaining that “it is necessary to encourage ambitious, cross-disciplinary ideas that do not just provide a temporary or a small-scale fix nor an unrealistic major shift in current practices”, the jury hopes that this win can “be an incentive for others as much as an encouragement to Seratech”. Seratech has the potential to significantly reduce embodied emissions globally and support future low-carbon construction.
Presented annually by the Henrik Frode Obel Foundation, The OBEL AWARD is an international prize for architectural achievement, founded by Henrik Frode Obel, seeking to honor works or projects from the past five years that had “outstanding architectural contributions to human development all over the world”. This year’s jury consisted of Martha Schwartz, Chair (founder, Martha Schwartz Partners, USA), Kjetil Trædal Thorsen (co-founder, Snöhetta, Norway), Louis Becker (design principal and partner, Henning Larsen, Denmark), Dr. Wilhelm Vossenkuhl (professor emeritus of philosophy, Germany), and XU Tiantian (founding principal, DnA, Beijing, China).