The flax bridge in Almere: a true innovation

11 July 2023

  • Tech
  • Linen

In 2022, the city of Almere in the Netherlands built an innovative and unique bridge made in part with flax fibres. This structure made with plant fibres is in the same league as bridges made of stone, wood and metal, as it is just as durable and long lasting.

The flax bridge in Almere in the Netherlands

An innovative bridge part of the European Smart Circular Bridge project

Not far from Amsterdam, the flax bridge in Almere is 15 metres long and can be used by pedestrians and cyclists alike. Around 15 European organisations participated in building this unusual bridge. These include the Dutch research centre TNO, which helped develop flax-reinforced resin; the Dutch construction company FiberCore Europe, which built the flax structure; and the University of Eindhoven.
This extraordinary bridge was designed as part of the European Smart Circular Bridge project, which promotes the advantages of bio composite materials in construction.

A smart bridge made of flax

This very special bridge is made of a new composite material, which contains flax fibre and bio-resin. The fibres used in building this bridge are 100% natural, and the resin coating comes from non-fossil source. In short, this bridge is made of large blocks of vegetable foam wrapped in flax fibre. These large bricks are then assembled and covered again with several layers of flax fibre.

In the end, the result is dipped in resin to produce an extremely strong material. This bridge is monitored by sensors to study the evolution of natural fibre-based composites. This is an opportunity to test the resistance of flax composite to tension and compression on the ground and in real-life conditions, when exposed to the elements, including humidity and UV rays.

Flax fibre in building and construction

Linen fabric made from flax fibre is used widely in fashion and interior decoration. The use of flax is also growing increasingly popular in the construction sector. Flax’s technical properties have made it the material of choice for building structures including bridges. This is a plant fibre that makes it possible to create exceptionally durable and long lasting lightweight materials.

The components of the work are easier to transport and install without having to make concessions on other essential criteria such as the longevity of the structure. Flax fibre performs well even in humid environments and is resistant to mould and insects. It is also known for its temperature and sound insulating properties. Moreover, flax has a longer lifespan than some synthetic materials such as plastic. Finally, the appearance of flax gives structures a natural and warm feel, which is often highly regarded by users.

Flax and green building

Flax, a plant fibre in line with environmental goals

Like hemp, flax has become a popular alternative in green building. Three-quarters of global flax fibre production takes place in Europe, specifically in France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. The European flax industry, promoted by the Alliance for European Flax-Linen & Hemp, gives access to high-quality plant fibres produced locally in Western Europe. Moreover, growing European flax is particularly in tune with environmental goals, it is without GMOs and requires no irrigation*.
*Guaranteed by the Alliance up to 99% today. Will be re-assessed in the future depending on climate change.

Soon to come: more flax bridges in Europe and beyond

With the construction sector accounting for almost 20% of global carbon emissions, flax certainly has a part to play. The low environmental impact of flax fibre production, together with the important technical properties of flax make it an increasingly popular material, especially at a time when more cities and builders are adopting strategies for sustainable development.

The bridge in Almere will therefore be replicated in other cities, first in Europe and then around the world. There are even plans in the pipeline to build flax bridges on a larger scale, ones that could accommodate car or even truck traffic. But first, building on the success of this first innovative flax bridge, other constructions of this type, similar to the one in Almere, will soon materialise in Ulm, Germany, and Bergen op Zoom, in the Netherlands.

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