New building materials are currently being explored by scientists who have proposed using artificial bone in construction work.
Cities must find ways to support the ever-expanding population while keeping carbon emissions under control, experts from the UK’s University of Cambridge.
With urban areas lacking on space, taller buildings need to be created to house more people using sustainable materials, not concrete and steel.
And this could be through using artificial bone which is designed to self-heal.
Dr Michelle Oyen, from the university’s Department of Engineering, said: “Just because we can make all of our buildings out of concrete and steel doesn’t mean we should.
“Engineers tend to throw energy at problems, whereas nature throws information at problems – they fundamentally do things differently.
“All of our existing building standards have been designed with concrete and steel in mind.
“Constructing buildings out of entirely new materials would mean completely rethinking the whole industry.
“If we’re going to make a real change, a major rethink is what has to happen.”
Despite some researchers trying to find ways of producing steel and concrete in more energy-efficient ways, Oyen would rather use natural resources.
Oyen has constructed small samples of artificial bone and eggshell in her laboratory, which could be used building materials and as the process takes place at room temperature, the samples take very little energy to produce.
While bones can break, it is relatively rare, and they have the benefit of being self-healing – another feature that engineers are trying to bring to synthetic materials.
Dr Michael Ramage from the university’s Department of Architecture is another who believes we need to expand our use of natural materials in buildings.
He has several ongoing research projects looking into the use of wood – one of the oldest building materials we have – for tall buildings.
Working with PLP Architecture and engineers Smith and Wallwork, Dr Ramage recently delivered plans for an 80-storey, 300m high, timber skyscraper to the London mayor’s office.