Transforming Real Estate Sector: Sustainable Construction Techniques

-Beijing, China

Urban housing models are now more of a destiny than a trend for the average person in the most populated parts of Asia, China and India. In the developing world, people increasingly flock to high-density living areas as they have easier access to commerce, healthcare and other amenities. The building materials industry’s infrastructure in Asia for trade and manufacturing has only reached a reasonable application of green building materials model within the past decade or so. The shift in lifestyle and housing infrastructure has led to concerns over energy, and carbon footprint. Researchers are concerned that the concrete, cement, etc, used in the making of modern high density living apartments is to blame for a large part of the pollution produced by these regions.

Almost a quarter of India’s CO2 emissions come from residential and commercial real estate construction. Increased growth in China and India, two industry giants, contribute greatly to the global carbon footprint. In India, 20% of water and 30% of natural materials are used in the construction and building materials industries.

Mr. Jack Yuan from the Institute of Technical Information for the Building Materials Industry in Beijing says that contamination and erosion of earth and air caused by dust and asbestos are hazardous byproducts of construction activities.  The team at ITIBMI, operating under the China Building Materials Academy, researches sustainable and progressively green infrastructure, while keeping in mind the cost and benefits of efficiency. “Nowadays the economic benefits can be seen through water and energy efficiency, with most green technologies focusing on the conservation of water, power and natural materials. ”

Yuan goes on to site specific technologies on the market, focusing on city specific construction. “ Pre-cast, reinforced hollow concrete blocks/ paneling made from fly ash, or Glass fiber Reinforced Gypsum (GFRG) walling, are a few examples of modern housing construction technologies. Efficiency in time, energy, cost and supplies will continue to propel the industry through innovation. “

Construction companies are increasingly embracing technologies consisting of fly ash and gypsum. These bi-products can be locally sourced and inexpensive because transportation costs are low.  Coal fired power stations and factories are selling them at a low cost to keep up with landfilling and other environmental regulations, making exporting/importing of fly ash another viable options for companies without local sources.

Issues arise logistically when construction and building material manufacturers are far from these resources or do not have the infrastructure in place to get the product from power station to manufacturing facility. As the world transitions to green energy, including solar and wind technologies, some countries have been forced to import bulk ash from producing countries. To read more about this logistical issues and trends, please be sure to read our upcoming newsletter, due out at the end of 2017. To be put on our newsletter mailing list, please click the link on the main page.

 

Global Gypsum Market to Grow 10% in the Next Decade

Resource: The Future of Gypsum: Market Forecasts to 2016, Smithers Apex

Currently, the global gypsum market is valued at approximately $1.5 billion USD. 60% of this contributed to by the cement industry, while 33% is taken up by plasterboarding. Gypsum’s primary uses are in the settling of retarders (cement), building construction and for conditioning soil and fertilizer in agricultural applications. The 252 million ton per year industry is expecting to grow another $1 billion USD in the next two years and another 1.5billion in the 8 years following, as expressed by Ken Soezen, author of this report.

The pattern of consumption fluctuates geographically. The western world, including the US and large parts of Western Europe, use the product for wallboarding. This is not true for the rest of the world and especially in developing countries such as India and China where drier applications in instruction are not the industry standard yet.

Population growth particularly contributes to the need for gypsum in developing worlds, as the market fluctuates between the need for housing, and therefore cement becomes in higher demand. China and India, where construction and infrastructure work has exploded in recent years, became catalysts for growth in cement production in Asia. In 2012, China alone accounted for 58% of worldwide cement production, with India also making the top of the list at 10%, behind the USA.

The construction industry tends to be very cost conscious as seen in recent shifts towards eco-friendly and cost effective utilization of waste bi-products in the building materials sector.  Gypsum has become an industry favorite due to its recyclability and durability during repeated applications. Gypsum is one of the cheapest alternatives to widely used portland and sand based aggregate cements that have been the industry norm. 

Center for Applied Energy Research: Lower Carbon Footprint with Coal Ash By-Product

The University of Kentucky’s Center for Applied Energy Research, in collaboration with the College of Material Science and Engineering in Nanjing and the Asian Coal Ash Association, have published a paper in response to a collection of twenty coal ash samples from Shanxi Province, China.

The chemistry of this ash showed that the ingredients showed high amounts of sulfate and alumina. This specific concentration of material is optimal for highly durable cement aggregates. The ash was collected from the Shentou Power plant in Shouzhou city, Shanxi Province China, where the Asian Coal Ash Association hosts its annual Coal Ash Asia conference.

The presence of these materials not only allows for stronger cement than regular Portland, but for a lower carbon footprint during production and application. Please feel free to download " Coal Ash By-Product from Shanxi Province, China, for the production of Portland-Calcium Sulfoaluminate" learn more about this research.



Smokestack Industries in China Face Serious Problems

Gansu, Northern China

Due to overcapacity and slowing demand throughout China’s core building materials industries, regulators have been under pressure to cut power prices. Bloomberg News reports that in some regions, the rates were expected to decrease by 0.03 yuan per kilowatt-hour. This small reduction represents significant savings to aluminum, cement and steel-manufacturing companies, whose power usage represents over 40% of production costs.

Regulators assert this reduction comes at a justifiable time, since coal prices have also decreased significantly over the past year. This reform could potentially help relieve stress from some crucial industries and keep some doors from closing. The move has already been made in Gansu province, whose state-owned Liancheng smelter is currently receiving decreased power prices. 

What appears to be a welcomed relief to smokestack industries may also have dire repercussions. Due to overcapacity, companies are attempting to pass their savings on to the buyers by lowering aluminum prices. The reduction will bring down aluminum prices to a six-year low at just under 8,900 yuan per ton. The fear now is that this new policy will undermine current energy/environmental policies that encourage energy conservation. 

Aluminum, steel and cement are the most power hungry industries in China and therefore are the main users of high polluting coal; the cause of the country’s CO2 emissions and air/water pollution. China has been discouraging the expansion of these industries as far back as 2004 with power pricing differentiation. These did little to dissuade investment from these industries. Since the four trillion yuan stimulus program of 2009, China’s smelters are operating at a loss. Ninety percent of aluminum smelters have excess inventory and are unable to support their current capacity. Cement and steel industries are at similar annual losses; production for cement dropped 4.6% while crude steel dropped 2.2% (The National Bureau of Statistics). 

A combination of regulatory, market and environmental policy reformation is necessary to address this issue. Even with a lack of carbon tax, a surplus of coal and industrial overcapacity, the power price cuts seem likely to continue.

India, Institute for Solid Waste Management and Ecological Balance: Fly Ash used in higher performance and energy efficient road construction

Nellore, India - November 29, 2015
Springtime brings flooding to many parts of southern India. Roads made of tar or bitumen are commonly subjected to this flooding, especially near water causeways, as has happened recently between Nellore and Tada. In road construction, cement concrete is superior but is an expensive alternative and therefore cannot be implemented widely. Road construction companies are now experiencing an industry wide change to address this issue. Coal fly ash aggregates are being implemented to improve the quality of roads with increased maneuverability and cost efficiency.

The Institute for Solid Waste Management and Ecological Balance, among other institutes of it’s kind, widely advocate for the utilization of fly ash for road construction. Due to several of its physical and chemical properties, fly ash makes a choice material for road construction. During construction, it settles less than 1%. When properly compacted, fly ash does not exhibit any long-term settlement issues and can be compacted easily while utilizing sufficiently less water than its industry alternatives. With the use of regular construction equipment, it can be mixed with lime to spread along soil providing significant strength unmatched by its competitors.

Its hardening property is useful for road embankment/pavement construction necessary to reduce pressure on retaining walls. When used as filler, expansive properties of soil can be reduced considerably. It stabilizes well with lime and cement, facilitating its use as filler material. The high permeability factor of fly ash eases free drainage during rainfall and afterwards.

Fly ash provides a cost-effective solution, saving approximately 75% of costs. Its use in construction leads to numerous environmental benefits. Notably it helps with the disposal of fly ash, generally viewed as a waste material. And of course, it reduces fossil fuel burning that otherwise would have needed for producing more cement and other road construction materials.