Cement giant eyes green products for growth

business March 30, 2014 00:00

By Somluck Srimalee
The Nation

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Italcementi group aims for materials that are less toxic, save energy and water

Italian cement giant Italcementi Group is setting its sights on being more environment-friendly – with products for the building community that are less toxic, have lower C02 emissions, save energy and water, and produce less waste.
Italcementi is an Italian multinational company, which produces cement, ready-mix concrete and construction aggregates. It’s the fifth largest cement producer in the world.
In Asia the group has interests in China, India, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Sri Lanka, and Thailand.
A major product focus now is the development of raw construction materials backed up by an aggressive research programme to create them, said the group’s innovation director Enrico Borgarello in an interview with The Nation.
Among new building innovations already on the table are: a thermal cement that guarantees comfort all year round; a concrete for pavements that can absorb water 100 times faster than natural soil; cement-based skim coats for both indoor and outdoors; and a precast concrete panel that can transmit light.
Borgarello said innovative planning is a still growing feature, but it must develop in the future towards a sustainable environment, for business and for the community in the long term.
“We’ve been developing innovative products over the past ten years, and during the last five have started to introduce innovative commercial products. We have set a target for environment-friendly products to be five per cent of our total revenue in the year 2015,” he said.
The group has already marked up successful sales of such products to achieve 5.3 per cent of total revenue of 4.5 billion euros by the end of 2013. This is higher than planned for in the early target five years ago, he said.
With this initial development success in terms of sales, the group has also set a new target to boost its innovative products sales by between 20 per cent and 30 per cent by the year 2020.
To achieve this new target, the group has to develop an average of two or three innovative products for the market a year, from its annual research and development budget worth 13 million euros, he said.
“This is an aggressive target for our department but it is also a challenge for our team of 170, to research products that are environmentally friendly to natural resources, using less water, producing less CO2 into the atmosphere, and less waste into the environment. Our production processes also limit waste,” he said.
Such creative thinking is the way to make the group’s business vision come true, Borgarello added.
Italcementi’s business vision from now till the year 2020 aims for a “world class business, building a better and sustainable future for all our stakeholders,” Borgarello said.
To support the research and develop innovative products, the group has opened a prestigious research centre designed by consultants i.lab. In 2012, i.lab and US architect Richard Meier designed a green building that received the Leed (leadership in energy & environmental design) Platinum certificate from the US Green Building Council.
i.lab is the research and develop centre through which the group develops innovative products for its businesses in 22 countries on 4 continents, boasting an industrial network of 53 cement plants, 10 grinding centres, 7 terminals, 449 concrete batching units and 115 aggregate quarries.
“i.lab will research and develop the standard innovative products and then, when the products expand to other countries, we will have teams in those countries research and adapt the original products from i.lab to match the country’s environmental standards. We share our experiences with our partners. This will help us keep up the standard and also expand our innovative products to our global customers,” he said.
He added that group research is a strategic asset aimed at creating innovation projects that follow up new market trends.
The group’s main plan to develop its innovative products has been applied first to a constant search for sustainable architectural solutions. It represents for Italcementi a strategic lever to create its own competitive advantage, while contributing to improving quality of life and the environment.
The construction market is increasingly oriented towards advanced construction solutions which are sustainable and of highest levels of quality. In this context, Italcementi aims to become a cutting edge cement manufacturing group capable of transforming a commodity into a technologically advanced product at the service of the building community.
All its innovative products launched on the market show concern for the environment and convenience of use.
For example, i.CLIME is the innovative “thermal cement” developed by Italcementi Group researchers. It consists of an ecological product that reduces energy consumption in buildings.
This material is intended for a variety of applications, from building structures to internal/external curtain walls, specifically designed to optimise energy efficiency and environmental friendliness.
i.CLIME delivers the durability and strength of traditional cement with very low thermal conductivity, to guarantee a comfortable climate for customers all year round.
The “thermal cement” i.CLIME has been conceived for a 100 square metre house, costing 100,000 euros, designed by Italian architect Mario Cucinella.
Another innovation is i.idro DRAIN, a concrete formulation capable of draining water.
Thanks to a specially formulated mix, i.idro DRAIN combines the strength of a concrete pavement with a drainage capacity 100 times greater than that of natural soil.
i.idro DRAIN is just one of many products stemming from Italcementi Group’s continued commitment to developing innovative solutions for architecture and the building construction community.
i.idro DRAIN is one of the most environmentally sustainable products on the market today.
Comparative tests performed by the Politecnico di Milano, demonstrate the excellent drainage capacity of i.idro DRAIN. It equals or even exceeds that of naturally available loose materials like sand, clay and silt, and of traditional water draining asphalt pavements, too.
i.active COAT is a new generation of cement-based skim coats for both indoor and outdoors, featuring surprising performance thanks to TX Active, an innovative photocatalytic technology patented by Italcementi.
It is a product truly capable of turning surfaces into active elements thanks to the interaction with either natural or dedicated artificial light.
i.LIGHT, a precast concrete panel that can transmit light, was launched for the first time at Expo Shanghai 2010. Bonding special resins in an innovative mortar, i.LIGHT not only lets natural and artificial light in – but also allows images or objects placed behind the panel to be seen, creating a surprisingly transparent effect.
i.LIGHT is one of the products resulting from the continued commitment of Italcementi Group to developing innovative solutions for the building construction industry. The group says the products are set to change the typical mindset of those who see walls as darkening elements, enhancing their value as an innovative way to transmit light.
“We believe that the mission of a major industrial group also includes meeting the needs to improve the quality of life for all of us. 
“With this product we feel we can provide a solution for at least one of those problems which are seen everyday in the air quality of our cities. Thus we offer the public sector and other principals the possibility of opting for structured, longlasting and targeted solutions as part of their programmes to fight pollution,” Italcementi Group’s CEO Carlo Pesenti said.

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