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Development of insulating concrete systems based on novel low CO2 binders for a new family of eco-innovative, durable and standardized energy efficient envelope components

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - ECO-Binder (Development of insulating concrete systems based on novel low CO2 binders for a new family of eco-innovative, durable and standardized energy efficient envelope components)

Reporting period: 2017-07-01 to 2018-12-31

Concrete is the most widely used man-made material on Earth, with an annual consumption of around 10 billion m³. Traditional Ordinary Portland Cement (OPC) provides the concrete with its desired properties, namely strength and durability. However, its production is associated with high CO2 release (~0.9t CO2/t of Ordinary Portland clinker); cement fabrication accounts around 5% of the worldwide anthropogenic GHG emissions.
ECO-Binder aims to develop a new generation of concrete-based construction materials and prefabricated building envelope components with more than 30% lower embodied energy, 20% improved insulation properties and 15% lower cost than the current solutions that are based on OPC.
The main objective is to demonstrate that OPC can be fully replaced with new ones based on the Belite-Ye’elimite-Ferrite or BYF class of low-CO2 binders, without compromising on quality or cost.
In BYF technology, the superior early age strength contribution of calcium-sulfo-aluminates is combined with durability provided by Belite. Life-cycle assessment calculations show that BYF CO2 emissions are lower than those of OPC due to the lower calcium content of the raw materials (less limestone usage), a lower clinker burning temperature of around 1250 - 1300°C and lower energy consumption for grinding. These factors result in a significantly lower embodied energy than OPC concrete.
The new building envelope solutions integrate multiple functions in a single product package. The ECO-Binder solutions provide higher performance in terms of acoustic insulation/absorption, fire and mould resistance, dimensional stability to avoid air or water leakage. In addition, they offer multi-functional surface properties such as thermal reflection, anti-stain, anti-bacterial and self-cleaning, thanks to the finishing technologies applied.
To demonstrate the effectiveness of the new technology, BYF panels and benchmark (OPC) were installed in 5 demo sites, in different climatic areas and for different application: new construction, deep renovation and real scale building. The mock up as well as the façade panels in each demonstration site were all comparable in terms of dimensions and exposure to the sun, while their different locations enable the Consortium to test the impact of different climatic conditions. Several parameters were monitored over the course of an entire year in order to examine seasonal influence as well as durability. Comparable structures built using OPC were monitored on the same sites in order to compare the two technologies side-by-side and the results were validated against the main objectives. In addition the BYF technology were implemented in a real building (Italy) with 11 meters height panels in order to demonstrate the possibility to apply the technology in real buildings.
The overall structure of the project was composed of three main phases depending one on the other: RTD phase provided inputs for second phase namely prototyping in real conditions and integration of precast components, which then enabled the third phase namely full-scale demonstration.
Parallel activities were envisaged along the whole project to assess performance of technologies developed and address standardization issues.
The main activities and results achieved during the project were:
• Identification of the most suitable additives for the production of concretes that fully replace the use of OPC;
• Early hard concrete characterization and correlation with microstructure;
• Definition of concrete mix designs for real scale production;
• Durability and fire resistance testing for BYF cements;
• Development and production of finishing solutions and selection of insulation technologies for precast panels;
• LCA activities at material level as well as at panel levels during the whole life cycle;
• Full-scale production of panels in real production plant;
• Demo buildings detailed design, execution and monitoring;
• Communication&Dissemination activities aimed to spread project awareness;
• Exploitation plan definition and monitoring;
• Standardization activities: official liaison with the CEN/TC 51 established.
Belite-Ye’elimite-Ferrite (BYF)-type binders are based on novel clinkers with significantly lower carbon footprints than OPC.
The background knowledge enabling the full potential of ECO-Binder innovation originates from previous research work carried out about BYF-type binders by three leading EU cement companies Heidelberg Cement, LafargeHolcim and VICAT. These companies are applicant in more than 500 patents concerning new cements and concrete mixes.
BYF-based concretes harden more rapidly than conventional OPC concretes without the need for thermal curing procedures. In addition to saving energy, this means that equivalent concrete products made with BYF cements can be demoulded and handled earlier. Alternatively, the higher early strengths can be used to allow thinner concrete layers to be produced more easily, which in turn can allow a greater thickness of insulating material in the same overall volume.
These benefits can be used to enable the production of novel prefabricated insulating products with improved insulation performance and decreased carbon footprint and embodied energy, coupled with significant materials and costs savings.
In order to provide highest performances in the required areas for the building panels, functional materials with thermal-acoustic, fire resistance, contaminant absorption properties (fillers, coatings, panels, ...) were embedded in an innovative finishing material.
In this respect, the project has a number of key strategic research and technological innovative steps which will have strategic impacts and lead to a step change improvement in the competitiveness of a resource intensive and high GHG emissions contributing sector, servicing a stock of 210 million existing buildings across the EU:
• By using the new knowledge generated, the project will develop sustainable, innovative energy efficient concrete with reduced embodied energy (-30%) using novel low cost/high volume sustainable processes (15% cost reduction compared to existing solutions), thereby addressing the zero-carbon drivers of the EU Construction and Modern Buildings sector – Economic innovation;
• The increased competitiveness of EU Enterprises, large and SME participants, through increased transnational R&D collaboration will lead to an estimated 1 to 4 MEuro business opportunities in the medium term for project partners through exploitation of the concept solutions post project – Economic Innovation;
• The project will provide significant reductions in EU energy consumption (20% improved thermal insulation properties) and GHG emissions in the Retrofitting and “Green” Construction sector, giving clean affordable and societal benefits to EU citizens – Environmental Innovation;
• The project will contribute innovative solutions in concrete production and envelope components when compared to state of the art OPC based systems, including better air tightness and higher levels of fire resistance, durability and indoor air quality – Technological Innovation.