Housing development in Ontario’s far north is limited, largely because of the high cost of materials and construction challenges created by harsh weather conditions and permafrost. But local peat moss may offer an affordable alternative.
Cambrian College and its industry partners wanted to find a solution to the cost of shipping building materials in Northern Ontario by exploring the use of indigenous sphagnum peat moss as an aggregate in cemented peat construction blocks.
Peat moss has already been used for heat and electricity. The challenge for this project was to understand the technical issues in developing a handling and processing method that was adequate for block fabrication. The project aimed to perfect a mixture of peat, cement and binders to create a usable construction product. Cambrian Innovates, the college’s applied research centre, brought together a highly skilled team of industry partners, faculty and students.
Commercialization of peat building blocks would directly benefit Northern Ontario communities like those in the Hudson Bay Lowlands, which contains the largest peat reserve in the world. The potential new “green” building material comes at an opportune time, as the global building materials market is expected to grow and reach almost $890 billion in 2015.
Once the development of this product is completed, the industry partners Rainbow Concrete Ltd. and Sustainable Building and Energy Consultants Inc. plan to commercialize the product and manufacturing method.