SAV SYSTEM

good-design-award_winner_rgb_blk_logo
  • 2021

  • Next Gen
    Engineering

Designed By:

  • Roma O'Neill Bodycomb

Commissioned By:

RMIT University

Designed In:

Australia

This project explores how submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) could provide a fire resilient building material for bushfire prone regions that simultaneously ameliorates the impacts of climate change and Victoria’s waste crisis.


  • CHALLENGE
  • SOLUTION
  • IMPACT
  • MORE
  • The devastating impacts of the 2019-20 Australian bushfire crisis are the result of extreme weather conditions aggravated by climate change. The unprecedented bushfire season which burned millions of hectares of land across Australia, as well as the ongoing environmental repercussions, highlight the importance of environmentally sustainable materials and design.

  • By identifying environmentally detrimental practices whilst evaluating sustainable materials and processes, this project explores how submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) could provide a fire resilient building material for bushfire prone regions that simultaneously ameliorates the impacts of climate change and Victoria's waste crisis. In addition to its environmental benefits, submerged aquatic vegetation is desirable in a building application due to ideal thermal and acoustic properties, natural flame-resistance, and resistance to mould. Utilising the viscous and adhesive properties of alginate present within brown algae, possible applications of brown algae with seagrass have been explored as a material basis for simple building products.

  • This research has explored precedent applications of seaweed in design; analysed the feasibility and benefits of seaweed farming in Victoria; undertaken experiments to understand material properties and potential forms using this material; and explored an environmentally sustainable material system design for submerged aquatic vegetation harvesting, processing of materials and manufacturing of products, powered by renewable energy sources. The system proposal explores the feasibility of utilising submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) as a fire resilient building material for bushfire prone regions and how the system might simultaneously ameliorate the impacts of climate change and Victoria's waste crisis.

  • The SAV SYSTEM proposal showcases material properties, indicates potential building products, and outlines the environmentally sustainable material system design through which these products may be realised. Recent studies confirming the large role marine ecosystems play in the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere have identified seaweed to be particularly effective at carbon dioxide sequestration, storing up to 20 times more carbon per acre than land forests. Brown algae and seagrass, each classified as submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV), are the renewable and biodegradable resources utilised within this system, and possess ideal thermal and acoustic properties, as well as natural fire resistance and resistance to mould. Key manufacturing processes post cultivation and harvesting stages include grinding and heating of raw materials, and compressing and drying of the developed material into building products. To ensure an environmentally sustainable system is achieved, all stages must be powered by renewable energy sources within close proximity to cultivation and manufacturing sites. SAV SYSTEM demonstrates the benefits of utilising unconventional materials, whilst highlighting the importance of sustainable design to address contemporary building and environmental challenges.