Date of Award


Document Type

Master's report

Degree Name

Master of Science in Civil Engineering (MS)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering


Eric Seagren


This study investigated the physical characteristics of lightweight concrete produced using waste materials as coarse aggregate. The study was inspired by the author’s Peace Corps service in Kilwa, Tanzania. Coconut shell, sisal fiber, and PET plastic were chosen as the test waste products due to their abundance in the area. Two mixes were produced for each waste product and the mix proportions designed for resulting compressive strengths of 3000 and 5000 psi. The proportions were selected based on guidelines for lightweight concrete from the American Concrete Institute. In preparation for mixing, coconut shells were crushed into aggregate no larger than 3/4 inch, sisal fiber was cut into pieces no longer than 3/8 inch, and PET plastic was shredded into 1/4 inch-wide strips no longer than 6 inches. Replicate samples were mixed and then cured for 28 days before they were tested for compressive strength, unit weight, and absorption. The resulting data were compared to ASTM Standards for lightweight concrete masonry units to determine their adequacy. Based on these results, there is potential for coconut shell to be used as coarse aggregate in lightweight concrete. Sisal fiber was unsuccessful in producing the appropriate compressive strength. However, the reduction in spalling of the hardened concrete and the induction of air in the mixes incorporating sisal fiber suggests that it has the potential to improve other characteristics of lightweight concrete. Concrete mixes using PET plastic as aggregate resulted in adequate compressive strengths, but were too dense to be considered ‘lightweight’ concrete. With some adjustments to slightly decrease absorption and unit weight, the PET plastic concrete mixes could be classified as medium weight concrete and, therefore, achieve many of the same benefits as would be seen with lightweight concrete.