A 220-square-metre experimental building under construction at the Technical University of Dresden (TU Dresden) in Germany could be the world’s first building made entirely of carbon fibre reinforced concrete.

German architecture firm HENN collaborated with researchers at The Institute of Concrete Structures, TU Dresden led by Professor Manfred Curbach to develop the concept design of The Cube – the world's first building made of carbon reinforced concrete. Centrally located at Fritz-Foerster-Platz on the TU Dresden campus, the test building for carbon concrete is part of the lighthouse research project on innovative building materials ‘C³ - Carbon Concrete Composite’, funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

Setting an example for architectural and structural innovation, The Cube is made from concrete reinforced with specially developed carbon fibres instead of conventional steel rebar. The carbon fibres, which are ultra-thin threads of almost pure carbon crystals, are bound together using a process of thermal decomposition called pyrolysis to create carbon fibre yarns. Concrete is poured into a mesh made of these yarns to create carbon concrete.

According to HENN, carbon concrete is four times stronger than steel-reinforced concrete, and four times lighter due to lesser structural sections. Unlike steel, carbon fibres are corrosion-proof, substantially extending the lifespan of carbon concrete structures. Buildings made with carbon concrete can also have thinner structures compared to steel reinforced concrete buildings, reducing the amount of concrete needed in construction.

The Cube’s fluid form features a wall that bends up to become a roof, emphasising the flexibility of carbon fibre concrete.

“The design reinterprets the textile nature of carbon fibres through the fluid merging of ceiling and walls in a single form, suggesting a future architecture where environmentally conscious design is paired with formal freedom and radical rethinking of the most basic architectural elements. Wall and ceiling are no longer separate elements but functionally merge into one another as an organic continuum,” HENN stated.

“The roof is opened by a skylight, which additionally emphasises the organic form. Through the design of the building, the carbon concrete shows its design possibilities in an impressive way; the building becomes a sculpture.”

HENN added that the light yet robust carbon fibres allow for flexible and resource-saving construction – the conversion to this innovative material can reduce CO2 emissions from construction by up to 50 per cent.

The Cube will house presentation spaces, test laboratories, workspaces and meeting rooms.

The carbon fibre used in The Cube comes from a petroleum source, which increases the carbon footprint. The researchers are exploring ways to create carbon fibre from the plant-based lignin, which is also a by-product of the paper industry.