The speed and efficiency of roadway development could be dramatically increased by replacing traditional bitumen and gravel with prefab modular components that slot together like Lego blocks.
Dutch company VolkerWesslers has developed prefabricated road blocks made from recycled plastic that are lightweight and highly durable.
The modular units can be assembled into finished roads on site by simply piecing them together. This translates into all the benefits traditionally brought by prefabricated building – quicker and more convenient construction, briefer work times, and savings when it comes to labour costs and wasted materials.
According to VolkerWessels, the modular blocks are also highly suited to the installation of roads in structurally difficult terrain such as sandy soil, which can pose a challenge to traditional construction methods.
The hollow cavities at the core of modular components can to used to accommodate a variety of infrastructure components, such as telecommunications wires, water pipes or power cables.
They could also be used to house other forms of equipment to facilitate the creation of “smart roads” that are independently responsive to the surrounding environment, including sensors for traffic conditions, weather monitoring devices and street lamp connections.
The production of the prefab modular units themselves is highly sustainable, employing recycled plastic waste that has been extracted from the sea and converted into a highly resilient aggregate material.
The material is corrosion-resistant and capable of functioning effectively at temperatures ranging from minus 40 to plus 80 degrees Celsius. VolkerWessels claims this will make roads made from the blocks virtually free of maintenance requirements and will triple their lifespan compared to conventionally-built roads.
The modular road blocks are scheduled for installation in the Dutch city of Rotterdam, where a pilot run will test their durability and surface performance under a variety of real world weather conditions.