Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

New materials: Reducing building's embodied energy

Last updated on: 2015-12-04
The construction industry is one of the biggest consumers of energy and raw materials, and a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. EU research into innovative new building materials is helping the industry reduce its carbon footprint.
New materials: Reducing building's embodied energy
CO2 emissions from making concrete account for a staggering 5% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. Other building materials such as steel, brick and plastic need a lot of energy to manufacture, and the minerals and ores used in them must all be mined, quarried and drilled for in energy-intensive processes to extract them from the earth.

To tackle this issue, EU research is being conducted to develop new technologies and materials that minimise what is known as ‘embodied energy’ – the sum of the energy needed to produce a material, including its sourcing and manufacture – in order to make construction more sustainable. There are many ways that this can be done, as a raft of EU projects in the field is demonstrating.

Concrete, for instance, can be made partly from secondary raw materials such as municipal solid waste, old plastic and electrical equipment or polyurethane foam, as one project shows. Concrete may also in some cases be replaced by bio-composite materials and resins produced from agricultural waste and feedstock, and the stems of tough plants like flax and jute.

New kinds of cement are being developed, based on low-carbon binders to replace those used traditional varieties such as Portland. CO2 emissions for the new binders are lower since they use less calcium, and hence less limestone is needed. A new generation of concrete-based construction materials based on these binders could reduce embodied energy by 30%, lower costs by 15% and improve insulation properties by 20%.

The beauty of these new components is that they do more than reduce the building industry’s carbon footprint. They are indeed proving to be cheaper and better performing than, and as strong as, traditional materials – and may be more fire-resistant, impermeable, provide better noise and heat insulation, and offer a cleaner indoor air environment due to the absence of volatile compounds.

This CORDIS Results Pack presents some of the latest breakthroughs enabled by EU funding in this field. Project partners include European construction companies as well as laboratories, universities and other research institutes.
Revolutionising the construction sector
Extracting, processing and manufacturing conventional building materials consume a tremendous amount of energy. Novel biocomposites are reducing that embodied energy and delivering...
Bio-aggregates sow the seeds for a revolution in building materials
We may be on the cusp of a revolution in building materials thanks to bio-based aggregates. Straw, clay, wheat, grasses or other organic materials, when mixed with innovative...
Greening concrete with sustainable raw materials
Concrete products manufactured from secondary raw materials could help the building sector improve its environmental performance and cut waste.
New cement could dramatically reduce building industry’s carbon footprint
Pre-fabricated building products based on new low-CO2 Belite-Ye’elimite-Ferrite cement binders offer low embodied energy, high performance, efficient insulation and a reduced carbon...
Inorganic polymers bring insulation to the next level
A new generation of inorganic, insulating and incombustible building materials has been tested at pilot scale and has shown commercial promise.
More about research and innovation in the field of Energy-efficient Buildings:
Energy-efficient Buildings (EeB) - Research & Innovation - Key Enabling Technologies - European Commission

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