A Romanian supermarket chain has opened the world’s first ice supermarket in the country’s capital, Bucharest.
Retailer Profi Rom Food, one of the principal supermarket chains in Romania, opened the store as a temporary building in the city's centrally-located George Enescu Square. It will stay open until December 24.
The project’s developers explained the inside temperature should be maintained under five degrees Celsius to ensure the store remains in perfect condition. They said around 80 tonnes of transparent ice were processed to create the walls and shelves of the shop, which features 150 squares metres of floor space.
While the project is the first ice supermarket in the world, a number of other ice buildings have been constructed previously, such as the famous Jukkasjärv Ice Hotel in Sweden. When opened in 1990, Jukkasjärv was the first ice hotel in the world, and it remains the largest to date. The hotel - including the beds - is entirely constructed with ice blocks taken from a nearby river and the interior temperature can dip as low as -8ºC in winter.
In the arctic regions, ice and snow have been used for a long time as construction materials by indigenous people. While the oldest and best-known form of ice building is the igloo, modern applications of ice include roads, bridges and staging areas for logging operations.
Nowadays, most ice buildings are temporary and their presence is seasonal, depending on the weather conditions of the region where they are located. Often the life span of these structures is only a few months out of necessity.
An example of a temporary ice building can be found in the village of Saranac Lake in New York, where every year, an ice palace is built as part of the village's winter carnival. The tradition dates back to 1896, when an ice tower was created with ice taken from the nearby Lake Flower.
The seasonal aspect of ice buildings has both advantages and disadvantages. The complete melting and disappearance of the structures during spring and summer means these buildings leave no environmental footprint. In addition, ice is available directly at the construction site, saving costs and pollution caused by transportation.
Disadvantages include the buildings' seasonal nature, weather dependence, and the low temperatures that must be maintained inside the buildings.
A number of studies are being conducted by researchers, scientists and students to determine ice's potential as a construction material.
According to researchers, ice is a relatively strong material that is abundant and inexpensive to manufacture in cold regions. This gives it great potential for use in construction, especially considering that transportation of other building materials to remote arctic areas is very expensive.
Ice's mechanical and thermo-mechanical characteristics can be greatly improved by reinforcement. To achieve this, various methods are being studied and laboratory tested, including the creation of ice composites, which is currently considered the most effective method.
Studies confirm that adding an homogenous distributed microscopic fibre reinforcement is the most effective solution for making large structures of ice. Moreover, natural cellulose reinforcement materials are preferred because of their low costs and availability in arctic regions. Experiments have shown that adding 10 per cent of sawdust might be the most effective cellulose reinforcement.
Currently, ice reinforcement is rarely applied. Thus, the development of a building method for reinforced ice is needed to encourage and expand the implementation of large-scale ice construction.