NFA MAGAZINE - MAY

LIFE IS A BEACH

Literally, life is a beach but anyone planning a beach vacation after Lockdown should look to book soon… before the beaches disappear! The world is rapidly running out of sand which for this sector is a worry that no- one should have missed. It has been reported that the shortage is bleak enough to mean that the glass vials used for COVID vaccines could too soon run out. With sand a critical component in glass and other construction materials this could seriously hurt the industry which uses up to 50 billion tonnes a year. Sand is the world’s most consumed raw material after water and today is used in so many industries. Demand is expected to skyrocket, and the shortage could well begin to throttle the production of so many things, from laptops and car windscreens to office buildings and new homes. Although this shortage started to surface around 10 years ago, there is no quick fix. Sand took around 80 million years to exist in its current state. The concern is warranted with “Sand Mafia” and the Illegal Sand Black Market profiteering from illegal sales. Fundamentally, the impact of extensive mining could be disastrous for business and the environment on a global scale. All this is fuelled by the need for more buildings, homes and personal tech. Soon, shortage of sand will greatly affect land planning and consequently - construction in all its forms. Whilst Chinese researchers may have developed a new construction material made from lunar dust, that is said to be 22 x stronger than concrete, this is not going to give us any great solution quickly! The use of glass in vials for vaccines was an unforeseen necessity that has not helped matters. Panic doesn’t help either, however there is definitely a need to evaluate sand and its purpose in building as a whole.

There are some alternative options, although crushing rocks and recycling concrete is an expensive business. This method however, does provide a solution to creating quality sand that is good enough for construction. Building the facilities to manufacture sand will be pricey. So many consider sand cheap, available and unlimited; so, to ensure that we do not run out, best practice procedures and extraction practices should be introduced. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, UNEP, the construction industry uses approximately 300% more sand today than was used 20 years ago. It is a trend that they expect to continue “as demand is still growing due to urbanisation, population growth and infrastructure development trends.” People are asking governments and corporations to face the issue by creating global extraction standards and viable alternatives. Volcanic ash, agricultural waste as well as a byproduct of burning coal called fly-ash. Granules of quartz are also being considered but these eco-friendly types of alternatives would have to comply with a vast amount of industry standards for people to be able to live in buildings made from them safely. New manufacturing facilities would be expensive and there will be tough competition vying for the right type of sand needed to make glass. Pulling together to meet demand may have to be the short term answer - we have all been doing this now in the wake of COVID for quite some time, and if we have learned anything, it is that we are all in this together.

HELEN DUVAL 2021

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NATIONAL FENESTRATION AWARDS MAGAZINE

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