13 June 2018
(L-R)  Beyond Zero Emissions Head of Research, Michael Lord and Wagners EFC Manager, Tom Glasby
(L-R) Beyond Zero Emissions Head of Research, Michael Lord and Wagners EFC Manager, Tom Glasby

The UQ Global Change Institute, in partnership with Wagners EFC, recently hosted an industry workshop that focused on advanced construction materials to combat climate change.

In an Australian first, more than 40 representatives from government, the university sector and industry took part in the half-day workshop at the Global Change Institute (GCI).

The event was an opportunity to highlight the carbon-reduction potential of geopolymer concrete, to examine the constraints preventing wider take-up of these advanced materials, and to explore potential opportunities for research collaboration.

Some of Australia’s biggest companies were represented at the workshop, including senior engineering staff from Lendlease, BHP and Aurecon.

Wagners EFC Manager Tom Glasby said his company was happy to support the GCI in hosting a workshop on geopolymer concrete because the material has enormous carbon-reducing potential for the construction sector.

“The positive industry response to this workshop shows that many major participants in the construction sector are actively looking for advanced building material solutions that greatly reduce carbon emission,” he said.

“A comprehensive analysis and public report into the cement industry by the scientific think tank Beyond Zero Emissions shows that the use of commercial ready geopolymer concrete from suppliers such as Wagners is a key pathway to achieving reducing emissions now.”

The Global Change Institute at The University of Queensland (St Lucia) is the first multi-storey building in the world to be constructed of pre-cast, geopolymer concrete, using a product developed and supplied by Wagners.

Beyond Zero Emissions Head of Research, Michael Lord told the gathering that one of the most overlooked properties of geopolymer concrete for the construction industry was the material’s ability to resist deterioration in hostile environments such as those found in sewers or highly acidic soils.

"It’s not just for footpaths,” Mr Lord said.

Professor Stephen Foster from the University of New South Wales said that while seven per cent of the world’s CO2 emissions came from traditional Portland cement, Australia led the world in the development of geopolymer concrete and engineering solutions that required significantly less concrete in major construction projects.

To encourage greater uptake of low-carbon geopolymer concrete, Professor Foster called for improvements in the evidence base; development of integrated design tools and more large-scale in situ demonstrations of geopolymer concrete.

With more than 30 years’ experience in the concrete industry in Australia, Asia, the Middle East and the United Kingdom, Dr James Aldred said concrete was by far the most widely used construction material in the world.

“It is hard to think of sustainable development for the growing global population without thinking of concrete as the primary building material for structures and infrastructure,” he said.

Civil engineer Rod Bligh and Hassel Principal Architect Mark Roehrs, who were part of the original design team that successfully completed the Global Change Institute Living Building in 2013, provided the workshop attendees with an overview of the innovation behind a building that produces more energy than it consumes.

The inaugural workshop has already led to registrations-of-interest from other stakeholders and is expected to result in additional events later in the year.

Geopolymer concrete (AKA alternative cement) featured as one of the solutions to reverse global warming in the Paul Hawken edited book Drawdown, which the writer and activist showcased at the Global Change Institute in February 2018.

“Ultimately, the world will move away from coal power and its attendant emissions, but as long as coal is being burned, fly ash cement [typically one of the chief components of geopolymer concrete] is a good use of the by-products – far better than sending them to landfill or holding pond,” Drawdown noted.

For more information about geopolymer concrete see the report ‘Rethinking Cement’ by Beyond Zero Emissions.

(L-R) Professor Stephen Foster (UNSW), Dr James Aldred, Rod Bligh, Michael Lord  and Tom Glasby.

Industry contact: Wagners EFC Manager, Tom Glasby Tel: +61(0)7 4637 7814

Media: GCI Communications: Mob +61 (0)438 285 283

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