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Why not build houses out of fiberglass?

Why not build houses out of fiberglass?

Why not build houses out of fiberglass?

(OP)
Hey guys,

Why do we still build houses out of wood, brick, and stone? Those materials have been used for thousands of years. With modern technology, we have access to much stronger materials like fiberglass and aluminum and those materials would make a house immune to earthquakes and possibly even hurricanes if built strong enough.

I'm not sure about the compressive strength of fiberglass, but tensile strength estimates can be around 1500 mpa or so. Even if the compressive strength is half that, it would still be 18x stronger than wood at 40 mpa, which makes up for the fact that it weighs 5x as much.

But more importantly, you can make the pieces hollow and manipulate the shapes more. You don't need nails, which are pretty weak, you can use fiberglass or epoxy resin to bond panels together. And you can make them curved and all sort of different shapes while maintaining optimal fiber orientation, which is pretty hard to do with wood. Almost everything made of wood usually fails where the pieces are connected - usually with nails or screws. Using glue might make things stronger.

And it would be immune to termites and mold. That alone probably makes it worth it. Water damage would be a much smaller concern. All that added together can make a house be able to stand for much longer.

I'm not sure about the fire properties, but I guess there are fire retardants you could mix into the resin. But the problem is that if it ever does catch fire, the entire street might have to be evacuated because of all the toxic fumes and dust. So preventing a fire might be easier, and more important.

-Gene

RE: Why not build houses out of fiberglass?

Gene,
A large number of the more complicated architectural details for buildings are made from fiberglass.

Back in the 1970s I was involved in a project to fabricate complete houses out of FRP. Part of what you touch on, the fire properties were a major hurdle. We were required to be only one tenth as flammable as a 2X4 pine stud, the strength properties were not a problem, creep was, we were using orthophalic polyester resin, parts in place would move after 6 months of constant load we had to double up on parts of the building. The resin was loaded with Aluminum tri hydrate as a fire retardant, we had to do toxicity tests and flame spread demonstrations worse than FAA standards. Parts were made to snap together with the wiring already in place. The prefabbing caused problems with local officials, building inspectors insisted in cutting holes in finished walls to inspect the wiring. Plumbers would not connect pipes, and so it went on.
I think if the structure had been fabricated as a mobile home we would have had more success. As it was the biggest obstacles at the time were the building trades and trying to adapt a then new material to fit existing standards. The oil embargo and subsequent run up in price of resin finally put the nails in its coffin. Now 38 years on you could try again.
B.E

RE: Why not build houses out of fiberglass?

Fibreglass is used for house construction in limited roles. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fiberglass
House construction needs more that strength- it need thermal mass and flexibility to handle movement.

RE: Why not build houses out of fiberglass?

If you can't use heavy and "inefficient" materials to build houses, then what will they be used for? Is it really feasible to design a fiberglass structure that has better properties than a brick wall? Strength, insulation (thermal and acoustic), UV protection, can you still hang pictures on the wall?

By all means start with fiberglass for a mobile home, but for a stationary house I'm thinking 3D printed concrete is the next big thing.

RE: Why not build houses out of fiberglass?

(OP)
Yeah, making a fiberglass structure with the same stiffness and acoustic properties as a brick wall might be hard to do. But you can use foam or fiberglass insulation to compensate for that. I doubt that you should solely rely on a brick wall to insulate your house, right?

I guess you can try to use a thermoplastic resin solution that provides lower cost and better creep resistance. A vacuum infusion system would probably be the best way to do that.

Although I agree with the "you need to use trees for something" argument, I'm not really sure if that applies. We can still use trees to make paper, etc. The raw materials used to make fiberglass are pretty abundant too.

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