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Keeping you informed about TecEco sustainability projects. Issue 91, 22 Sept 10

Newcastle Project - Block Manufacture and Trial

Builder: Bernard Hockings, Newcastle

Bernard Hocking's is a Newcastle builder who prefers to build more sustainable homes. During winter 2010 he has been working on a three bedroom, architect designed home in Newcastle, NSW. According to Bill "It's an opportunity to trial and showcase some of the best sustainable products and practices currently available."

The finished house will be independent of mains water supply and sewerage systems. Nine star thermal performance combined with efficient appliances and on-site energy generation will enable it to be a net exporter of renewable energy. Materials and construction methods have been selected that minimise embodied carbon emissions and ecological impacts, without compromising aesthetics and functionality, enabling the project to be carbon negative over its life cycle.

The project required approximately 45 m2 of charcoal coloured face blocks, mainly in fire-rated walls directly on the boundary. Bernard wanted to use TecEco Eco-Cement in these blocks primarily for their potential to minimise net CO2 emissions and he approached Bill Martin of Adbri Masonry Newcastle for assistance. According to Bernard, Bill and his staff went out of his their way to help, working with him and TecEco to deliver blocks that minimised CO2 impact whilst meeting expectations for strength, durability and appearance.

Adbri Masonry Bottom Ash Blocks utilising TecEco Eco-Cement

John Harrison from TecEco suggested to a first replace 2/3 of Portland cement in a standard mix with reactive magnesium oxide supplied by his company. The remaining Portland cement contributed to early strength but according to John more importantly provided optimal chemistry for carbonation of the magnesium and calcium hydroxide phases produced during hydration.  About 50% of the mix was bottom ash, a cementitious waste product from coal fired power stations. Fines were reduced to increase porosity of the blocks, improving the rate of carbonation whilst keeping clean, sharp edges essential for a neat appearance of face blockwork. Black oxide was added to give the required colour. Water content was slightly over 4%. According to Bill Martin the blocks went through the process well, transported without chipping or breakage, cut well, were easy to clean and the appearance, strength and other characteristics were excellent. He said the result was a block that looked much the same as Adbri Masonry's range of architectural coloured smooth blocks but with a slightly more open texture. Of interest to our mimics/competitors: The blocks were transported two days after manufacture and laid four days later with no breakages. No special carbonation rooms or other conditions were required and they were treated like every other concrete block made in the factory. They also showed much less efflorescence than normal blocks.

Partially Completed Hocking's Project House in Newcastle Showing Block Wall

To build the wall shown in the photograph of the partially completed Hocking's Project home a high-strength Tececo Eco-Cement mortar was used. John Harrison suggested a formulation of 1 part Portland cement to 3 parts reactive magnesium oxide which he supplied and 12 parts  double-washed coarse beach sand that Bernard obtained locally.    A higher proportion of sand could have been used but Bernard wanted high strength for walls on the boundary, which had parapets and were adjacent to where vehicles entered the garage. Normally using double-washed sand minimises efflorescence and the low clay content improves strength and minimises shrinkage but unfortunately such mixes are normally very bony and the bricklayers do not like them. According to Bernard the TecEco Eco-Cement formulation was worth using just for improving workability. He made clear when he said "The use of a TecEco Eco-Cement blended Portland cement - magnesium oxide binder resulted in a highly workable mortar with no need for added lime or fireclay."

Bernard's conclusion was that "There's a great future for Eco-cement blocks and pavers.  I've long been a fan of cement blocks anyway. They can utilise waste products such as bottom ash, crushed concrete, wood fibre, hemp and even recycled glass. They don't leach or off-gas and require little or no maintenance. They're readily recyclable and provide a strong, durable, termite proof cladding that, with appropriate construction methods, need no painting or waterproofing. They make very efficient use of a small amount of cement – less than cement-stabilised earth blocks or rendered straw-bale walls. Partially replacing portland cement with magnesium oxide minimises CO2 as the blocks set by absorbing the gas [1].

Finally I must congratulate the local manager of Adbri Masonry Bill Martin and his technical and production personnel who could not have been more helpful. They showed a genuine commitment to supporting innovation and  improving environmental performance. I look forward to TecEco Eco-Cement blocks and pavers becoming readily available commercially."

Footnotes and References

[1] Editor's note: The manufacture of reactive magnesia without releases in improved production facilities would give TecEco Eco-cement blocks the potential to be net carbon sinks – a truly sustainable building product.


Hill End Eco-House[1]

Builder: Rob Peagram, Brisbane

Rob Peagram Builders have been in the construction industry for 30 years and over the past 5 years the business has focused on environmentally sustainable buildings and has developed an expertise and knowledge of materials, design and construction practices that adhere to ecologically responsible methodology including:

During early 2010 Rob Peagram Builders completed building a river front house in Brisbane, Australia designed as a high quality home providing maximum benefit from a smaller parcel of land. The private owners were committed to the sustainability of the home and worked with Riddel Architecture to include many features to improve water and energy efficiency. Materials were conscientiously selected for local production, low toxicity, renewability and efficient use.

Portland cement concrete has excellent properties as a building material but the carbon footprint is extremely high so Rob Peagram Builders looked for an alternative. From the beginning TecEco concretes were ticking most of their boxes and they initially tried to get blocks manufactured in Queensland using TecEco Eco-Cement because of its sequestration potential. Unfortunately external events delayed production and blocks could not be made on time. Rob Peagram builders are planning to revisit block production for future events and were able to core fill some of their standard block walls with TecEco cement concretes.

The first (polish grade) concrete slab was poured using a TecEco Tec-Cement modification of a Hanson Icelandia mix containing recycled silica fume and fly ash. Apart from reducing plastic and drying shrinkage the use of reactive magnesia avoided darkening the slab as much as just fly ash would have. The technical team from Hanson worked with John Harrison from TecEco to test the product and produce a blend to suit the needs of Rob Peagram Builders. Two weeks after the pour and the signs looked good. Due to the timing of Rob Peagram's building strategy the slab was not be polished for several months, providing additional time for the hardening of the concrete before grinding and polishing.

As a small business Rob Peagam builders are in a strong position to support new technologies at the cutting edge of sustainable practice and when they achieve great results it is pleasing that they share that information with the wider sustainable construction community.

According to Rob "Early information coming from the Garnaut Climate Change Review reports that economic modeling indicates technologies being developed to recycle and sequester carbon will be increasingly common as a carbon trading scheme comes into effect. Effectively sequestering carbon, as TecEco Eco-Cement concretes do, fits squarely as a technology identified in the Garnaut Report. Sustainable construction is a fast growing field within the construction industry. With the building industry being one of the larger carbon emitters we need to bring about change in the way we build. Sustainable technologies being introduced today will become the benchmarks of building construction tomorrow."

Hill End Eco-House Picture Gallery

The Tec-Cement modified Hanson Icelandia Slab when Poured and then Honed to a Beautiful Sheen

The Stunning Gallery

Concrete can be Beautiful as the Dining Area Demonstrates

This project demonstrates the advantage of TecEco Tec-Cement Concrete for Polished Flooring. For more details please see http://www.tececo.com/product.tec-cement_flooring.php.

Footnotes and References

[1] The finished result was stunning and can be seen by visiting the blog http://hillendeco.blogspot.com.

Lord Stern at the Canberra Press Club 1 September, 2010

Lord Stern is an economist, a strong supporter of a carbon price and the author of the 2006 Stern Review, regarded as a seminal piece of research articulating the economic case for action on climate change. He may be a few years behind TecEco in calling for profitable technical solutions to global warming, but he has now at least emphasized the importance of new technology when he spoke recently at the Canberra Press Club recently about the new industrial revolution we are entering and other related global warming matters. With his influence, things may just move along a little faster for this company.

In his speech to the Australian National Press Club on the 1st September 2010, Lord Stern said the world should embrace what he called the ''new industrial revolution'' of cleaner technologies and renewable energy. He said ''Not participating in this new industrial revolution runs two types of risk: you drop behind technologically and you risk, not tomorrow or the next day but 10 or so years from now, finding real difficulty in the trade story......Ten or 15 years from now, those that produce in dirty ways are likely to face trade barriers." Several countries have toyed with the idea of setting up green tariffs, including the US and some European nations and Lord Stern added that although he had spent his career arguing against protectionism, trade barriers against countries that did not reduce their emissions were ''right''

TecEco has been arguing that profitable technical solutions following what we call Pilzers law are the only way forward for some 10 years now and we invite readers to study the political and economic pages on the company web site. The fact that Australia does not have carbon trading in place nor a viable policy for the development of new green technologies has impeded our development for too long now. Although we have grants and support for R & D here in Australia what is most missing is procurement policy and of course for green technologies - a carbon tax..

Lord Stern started his speech by making the connection between poverty and climate change. "...the two defining challenges of this century are overcoming world poverty and managing climate change and we succeed or fail on those two things together. John Harrison of TecEco have been saying that our problems are all connected for years and the diagram below first appeared in his presentations 4-5 years ago.

The Connections between World Problems

To his credit Lord Stern also drew the connection between future global wars and failure to mitigate climate change. He pointed out that climate change will result in mass movements of people on an unprecedented scale and said."if we've learned anything about the movement of people on scale, it leads to conflict and this of course would be on a global scale."

Although Lord Stern did not and others like Simon Friedman have not exactly recognised the importance of the connection between the flow of materials and molecular flows in the global commons Lord Stern did recognise that there was a new industrial revolution in relation to energy and this is of encouragement to us here at TecEco. We just loved the phrase "we can reduce them (referring to risks associated with climate change) radically by changing the way we do things and that's the story of the energy industrial revolution."

Lord Stern's view on a price for carbon is the same as ours. He said "We need a price for greenhouse gases.  We need  people through the markets to see the consequences of our actions." For TecEco's view see our political and economic pages.

An edited transcript of Lord Stern's Speech can be found at http://ukinaustralia.fco.gov.uk/en/news/?view=News&id=22798227

Tackling Global Climate Change

Meeting Local Priorities
A World Green Building Council Special Report September 2010

The Special report from the Green Building Council is important as it highlights the contribution of the building sector to global warming and calls for common metrics. It fails however to actually provide a plan to move forward and relies on lots of good vibe examples and a buzzy catch phrase about thinking globally and acting locally to inspire instead. I will comment in a few weeks further as I think this may be an opportunity to contact world leaders in the area with a precise summary of the direction we provide and the plan we make possible.

Tony Arnel, the chair said in his opening introduction to the report. "The need to 'think global, act local' has never been more urgent. Climate change is a threat that must be tackled globally, especially when considering that it is often those who are least responsible for the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that cause this phenomenon who are most likely to suffer the worst consequences. Further to this, it is the way we use energy in our homes and buildings - by definition locally - that offers the best and most cost-effective chance to mitigate the worst effects of climate change." I wish to point out that there is no greater inspiration than profit and new technology paradigms can solve the problems we have like global warming profitably.

Tony then went on to point out the salient but rubbery statistics by saying "Currently, buildings use 32 per cent of the world's resources in construction. They are responsible for around 40 per cent of global energy use and generate up to 30 per cent of global GHG emissions. At the same time, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has stated that "no other sector has such a high potential for drastic emission reductions" 1 , and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has identified that buildings offer some of the most cost effective and expedient ways to reduce GHG emissions. The World Green Building Council agrees. The global built environment can deliver rapid and cost-effective reductions to emissions and energy consumption - with a significant percentage realising positive returns to the global economy."

Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme slightly confused the numbers by saying at page 4 "This sector is responsible for 60 percent of the world’s electricity consumption resulting in 1/3 of global energy end-use greenhouse gas emissions, earning its title as single largest contributor to human-created emissions." He did at least recognise the need for metrics so that we can apply carbon trading to building and construction. We point out the easiest place to start is with building materials as it is very difficult to measure the contribution of good design even though we agree it is very important. In our earlier newsletter 88 we pointed out the importance of changing permissions and rewards. See also http://www.tececo.com/sustainability.permissions_rewards.php

Tony Arnel the chair wrapped up his opening salvo thus "With COP16 in Mexico just weeks away, the World Green Building Council believes that a global approach to developing a low-carbon buildings solution is imperative if we are to effectively tackle climate change quickly and affordably. The work has already begun to demonstrate what is possible locally, all around the world. Those efforts need to be built into something that is more than the sum of their parts, to deliver solutions that will really make a difference globally."

Quite right Tony. We hope to be talking to you soon. The full report can be downloaded from http://www.worldgbc.org/images/stories/worldgbc_report2010.pdf. Thanks to Graham Rogers, one of our unpaid consultants for the tip

AS 3972 - The Addition of Ground Limestone to Cements.

The addition of ground limestone to cement is environmentally friendly in that it reduces the amount of Clinker used and as a result net emissions. Benefits possibly accrue from some reactions that do occur mainly with aluminates but particularly if particle packing is appropriate. By appropriate particle packing we mean packing that reduces the overall water demand as we all know Duff Abrams law well.

We hope the new AS3972 when it is issued addresses the addition of ground limestone and in our case the addition of reactive magnesia as both can have effects that improve cement as we know it.

That there has been local concern about using ground limestone reflects the very low support for local research particularly by cement chemists as opposed to engineers.

It is important that we know what else is in cement other than clinker so good labeling is essential.