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Heriot-Watt University led project accelerates efforts to decarbonise cement industry

Published by , Deputy Editor
World Cement,

A project led by Heriot-Watt University is accelerating efforts to decarbonise the energy-intensive cement industry.

The innovative government, industry and academic collaboration has unveiled a series of ambitious targets for the sector, leading to net zero emissions across the UAE by 2040 before being rolled out globally.

The research, which is being led by the Centre of Excellence in Smart Construction (CESC) based at the University’s Dubai campus, will focus on four key areas: materials and waste management; building permits and regulations; new technologies; and education.

Partners include the UAE ministry of Climate Change and Environment, UK Department of International Trade, HSBC, Institute of Civil Engineers, American Concrete Institute and the New York University of Abu Dhabi alongside leading developers and construction experts.

Cement is the source of about 8% of the world's carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, according to think tank Chatham House. The majority of CO2 is produced as a result of decomposition of limestone. The remainder comes from the combustion of fuel and indirect emissions from electricity consumption.

Dr Anas Bataw is the director of the Centre of Excellence in Smart Construction at Heriot-Watt University. He said: “Construction and the wider built environment accounts for around 40% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Yet, the global construction market is expected to grow by US$4.5 trillion up to 2030 to reach US$15.2 trillion, with China, India, US, and Indonesia expected to account for 60% of this growth.”

“During the global transition to net zero, the construction sector needs to dramatically reduce the amount of carbon embedded in new infrastructure and buildings, ultimately reducing its wider impact on the environment.”

“As we develop advanced material, technological solutions and educational initiatives that will support the cement decarbonisation journey for the UAE, we’ll be sharing these insights on a global scale to support worldwide decarbonisation efforts. As a university with a global footprint, collaborating with global industry partners, we are perfectly placed to share this research.”

Feeding into the project, Heriot-Watt University is hosting a 48-hour global student Hackathon event during Expo 2020 Dubai as part of its support to the UK Pavilion.

The Sustainability in Construction Hackathon, running over 23rd & 24th February 2022, will bring together students and experts to tackle climate change issues and will include keynote speeches, workshops and panel sessions featuring distinguished experts from across the industry. At stake is a 15 000 AED scholarship per team member up to a maximum of 5 team members.

Dr Gillian Murray, deputy principal of business and enterprise at Heriot-Watt University said: “The Sustainability Hackathon is a fantastic opportunity for young people to kick-start their careers, build their entrepreneurial skills and work with experts as they explore new ideas to address urgent climate challenges. As a global university which is focused on solving global challenges, Heriot-Watt University is uniquely placed to provide students with the skills necessary to contribute to a prosperous and sustainable future.”

“Heriot-Watt’s research in sustainable construction is already changing the landscape. Our spin-out company Kenoteq has launched a revolutionary brick made of 90% recycled construction and demolition waste. By re-using valuable recycled materials from construction and demolition waste, Kenoteq has achieved a circular-economy exemplar and we are confident it will lead to a circular economy revolution for the construction sector.

“Our two-pronged approach to nurturing talent combines education with industry collaboration to ensure our graduates are equipped to make a meaningful contribution to the workplace and are highly attractive to industry. Participants in this Hackathon will be the workers and leaders of the future and we look forward to hearing their ideas and showcasing their innovations on the world stage at Expo 2020 Dubai.”

The Hackathon complements the University’s wider sustainability agenda which includes the £20 million Industrial Decarbonisation Research and Innovation Centre (IDRIC), funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) on behalf of the UK Government.

Working directly with the construction industry, the University’s clean-tech spinout Kenoteq has launched a revolutionary brick made of recycled construction and demolition waste. The unique, multi award-winning K-Briq is made from over 90% recycled waste materials. It produces a tenth of the CO2 emissions of a traditional fired brick and requires less than a tenth of the energy in its manufacture.

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