InterCement invests in sustainable construction research center

Tuesday, April 23, 2013 - 17:49
Project’s illustrative image Project’s illustrative image

InterCement, a holding company for the cement business of the Camargo Corrêa Group, sponsors a research center for sustainable building at the Polytechnic School of University of São Paulo (Poli-USP), in São Paulo city Western Zone. An old building of the Department of Civil Engineering will be completely renovated to receive the latest equipment. At the first step, the ground floor, with 640 square meters, will be used. The executive project will be completed in May by InterCement, and the research center will start its activities in 2013.

The innovative project for research focusing on construction was planned to accommodate 30 professors, master and doctor degree students, and will be coordinated by doctors in Civil Engineering Vanderley John and Rafael Pileggi. A pioneering research in eco-efficient concrete was chosen to debut the new study facilities of Poli. "InterCement aims to adopt sustainable solutions in its value chain, and that's why it has increasingly invested in innovative projects, such as the eco-efficient concrete", says Adriano Nunes, Innovation and Sustainability Director at InterCement.

The product has already been developed in a controlled environment by USP. Now the challenge is about applying a large-scale and competitive production process. The eco-efficient concrete has a low environmental impact, with significant reduction of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and energy consumption. The product should provide cement performance improvements in the consumer's application.

The method provides a more rational control, selection, and combination of raw materials used to produce cement, increasing the product's quality and flexibility and allowing to replace much of the material responsible for CO2 emissions, therefore reducing emissions by as much as 40%. According to Professor John, the technique developed at Poli expands the production without investing in more furnaces and increasing fuel consumption and exhaust emissions in the operation.

Cement is the second most consumed product in the world. About 2.5 billion tons are estimated to be produced per year. The high production level puts the sector as a major producer of carbon dioxide. Even though, some initiatives have managed to minimize the impact. Fundação Getúlio Vargas granted to InterCement last year, for example, the Gold Seal of the Brazilian GHG Protocol Program, for its greenhouse gas inventory. The company's levels stood at 531 kg CO2/ton, while the world average among companies from the same sector participating in the Cement Sustainability Initiative (CSI) is 656 kg CO2/ton.

Investment in research - The partnership with USP Polytechnic School includes investments of R$ 5 million by InterCement for the next five years. The university should also look for resources in innovation-supporting programs at federal and state level to increment the project's budget. The partnership represents one of largest agreements signed by Poli, the one with higher amount of private money from the construction sector.

InterCement has consistently invested in research that encourages innovative ideas. The partnership signed in early 2013 with Institute of Technological Research (IPT, Instituto de Pesquisas Tecnológicas), for instance, involves investment of R$ 2.5 million to produce cement from construction debris. This is a totally new technology that provides materials with low environmental impact, meaning no additional generation of CO2.