SmartCrete CRC calls out for zero carbon project ideas

The Australian cement and concrete industry have declared its ambition to deliver net zero carbon cement and concrete by 2050. In line with this, SmartCrete CRC is committed to deliver lower carbon cement and concrete which will require significant financial investment to research, pilot and adopt a range of technologies.

The VDZ report “Decarbonisation Pathways for the Australian Cement and Concrete Sector” released in October 2021,(1) demonstrates that this outcome can be achieved with the assistance of the full value chain. SmartCrete CRC was delighted to contribute to this report to better understand the technologies and practices necessary to decarbonise Australian cement and concrete.(2) To assist with understanding the content of the document the reports lead authors, Dr Martin Schneider and Dr Christoph Müller, presented at a webinar hosted by SmartCrete CRC on the 1st December 2021. In this webinar, the ambitions for the industry were presented along with the research and innovation areas that need to be explored to achieve these ambitions.

Click here to view the report and webinar

In addressing its vision to ensure the long-term viability of vital concrete infrastructure, SmartCrete CRC will continue to facilitate the creation of networks between the concrete industry, SME’s and research providers to address the research requirements that have been identified. SmartCrete CRC is ready to consider relevant projects that support key innovation areas. In addition, the organisation has funding available to realise these projects and can match funding for research by partners. From the eight pathways mentioned in the report, SmartCrete CRC will focus on the following five areas: 

•    Innovation through design and construction
•    Further innovation in concrete
•    Increased use of supplementary cementitious materials in concrete
•    New CO2 efficient cements
•    Accounting for concrete to uptake CO2 (recarbonation)

If you have project ideas that provide thought leadership and innovation and would like to develop these with SmartCrete CRC, please submit your idea through our website https://smartcretecrc.com.au/submit-an-idea/

Would you like to join SmartCrete as a partner and participate in our research program? Please get in touch through our website: https://smartcretecrc.com.au/become-a-partner/

Enquiries
Stephen Harmer
ACTING CEO 
Mobile: 0418407852
stephen.harmer@insightbsa.com.au

Click here to download the full Media Release (PDF)

1. VDZ is a world-renowned research centre, providing practical and quality-oriented joint research and services in the field of cement and concrete. 
2. Financial and in-kind contributions have been provided by the Cement Industry Federation, Cement, Concrete and Aggregates Australia, SmartCrete CRC and the RACE for 2030 CRC

SmartCrete to fund key projects with university partners

In partnership with Macquarie University, Western Sydney University and Swinburne University of Technology, SmartCrete CRC has announced funding for two different projects that will allow research into improving productivity in concrete infrastructure.

This funding will focus on areas such as engineered solutions, asset management and sustainability which are core themes that we have identified to address problems faced by the concrete sector.

The first project is centred around the use of recycled waste from latex paint to produce polymer modified concrete. This initiative, led by Dr Salwan Al-Assafi at Paintback will endeavour to reduce cost by converting unused paint into viable product with environmental and economic benefits. Dr Shima Taheri, Associate Professor Sorn Vimonsatit and Professor Simon Clark, from Macquarie University’s School of Engineering are also working on this project in collaboration with Western Sydney University and Swinburne University of Technology.

“This regenerative project will contribute significantly to the circular economy, through the repurposing of waste product into a value supply stream for the building industry,” said Professor Simon Clark. “By utilising unwanted latex paint in this manner and converting it into an effective concrete solution will see a reduction in raw material costs, boasting both a strong economic and environmental benefit for the wider industry.”

The second project led by Dr Heriberto Bustamante of Sydney Water and including industry partner Melbourne Water, will research the development of a photonic sensor integrator to monitor and examine the health of concrete sewer pipes. Also leading this project, Dr Martin Ams and Professor Michael Withford of Macquarie University’s Department of Physics and Astronomy, will assist in the reduction of maintenance costs and minimise disruption to local communities, to extend the life of concrete sewer structures.

SmartCrete CRC is delighted to partner with these universities on these key projects and are excited to see the benefits it will provide in its application to concrete infrastructure.

Click here to download the full Media Release (PDF)

SmartCrete CRC, CCAA & Decarbonisation

CCAA is the peak industry body for the heavy construction materials Industry in Australia and represents members operating cement manufacturing and distribution facilities, concrete batching plants, hard rock quarries and sand and gravel extraction operations throughout the nation. CCAA membership covers over 80% of the $15 billion heavy construction materials industry in Australia.

SmartCrete is proud to have CCAA as a core partner, given its focus on government and broader stakeholder advocacy; assistance to building and construction industry professionals; development of market applications; and technical and research expertise.

The ambitions for the concrete industry shared by SmartCrete CRC and CCAA include demonstrating concrete’s sustainability credentials, encouraging collaboration and networking, and supplying and sharing information. In support of the industry’s target to deliver net zero carbon cement and concrete to Australian society by 2050, CCAA and SmartCrete have both outlined their commitment to work towards decarbonisation by contributing to the new independent report developed by VDZ(1) called The Decarbonisation Pathways Report. The report identifies eight pathways and key future research opportunities to achieve this decarbonisation goal.

Click here for more information about decarbonisation pathways.

SmartCrete CRC look forward to their continued collaboration with CCAA as we develop engagement plans to better understand the technologies and practices needed to decarbonise Australian cement and concrete.

Click here to download the full Media Release (PDF)

1.VDZ is a world-renowned research centre, providing practical and quality-oriented joint research and services in the field of cement and concrete.

SmartCrete CRC CEO Announcement

 SmartCrete CRC wishes to advise that Warren South our current CEO has resigned from his position as at Friday 21st January 2022.

Click here to download the full Media Release (PDF)

Warren has spent the last 18 months transitioning SmartCrete from the establishment to operational stage, with significant achievements in the operating systems, securing a broader portfolio of partners, commencing the first wave of research to meet our Commonwealth milestones and facilitating the Decarbonation Pathways research project.

Warren has achieved this despite the challenges of Covid-19 and the impact on face-to-face communication, travel and working from home.

The SmartCrete Board thanks Warren for his contribution and wish him well in the next stage of his career journey.

The SmartCrete Board notes that the recruitment process for the new CEO has commenced and in the interim the CEO function will be split between the Chair Elizabeth Taylor and Board member Stephen Harmer.

The near-term emphasis will be on accelerated commencement of research projects for the existing partners, securing new strategic partners and translating the Decarbonation Pathways research into outcomes-based research for the Australian economy.

Elizabeth Taylor – Interim CEO
Stephen Harmer – Interim CEO 

Click here to download the full Media Release (PDF)

Interview with Hudson Worley, Chair of MECLA

MECLA identifies innovation areas required for low embodied concrete

SmartCrete CRC is proud to be a member of MECLA (Materials and Embodied Carbon Leaders’ Alliance) a collaboration of government and industry partners across different parts of the construction and building industry supply chain. Born out of a modest grant from the NSW government as part of their Low Embodied Building Materials program and with support from WWF-Australia, MECLA aims to accelerate the uptake of low carbon upfront or embodied carbon aligning to the Paris Agreement and principles of the circular economy.

SmartCrete CRC participates in the working group 5b, which was created to brainstorm opportunities to reduce the embodied carbon in cement and concrete. In order to explore their views and objectives on innovation towards climate change in Australia, we spoke to Hudson Worley, Chair of MECLA.

What are your main objectives and how do you plan to achieve these? 

To accelerate the uptake of low carbon materials in the built environment, currently responsible for 16% of the built environment emissions (which are a quarter of total Australian emissions).  If we don’t act now, this number will blow out to 85% of built environment emissions by 2050 particularly as the electricity grid decarbonises.  

As an impact procurement model, MECLA members seek to accelerate the demand for, and supply of, low carbon building and construction materials. Our model is based on collaboration at a pre-competitive level that addresses the systemic barriers to change. “MECLA enables us to have a solid foundation of data, a common direction of travel and a collaborative approach to get there.”

What have been your successes in innovation when it comes to climate change and Australia’s zero carbon goals? How did they come about?

Innovation is often 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. And sometimes it’s all about timing! 

And all those factors have come together in the last 18 months. Many ASX companies started reporting against the Taskforce on Climate Related Disclosure (TCFD) and the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi). The SBTi requires companies to focus on their Scopes 1, 2 and 3 emissions. For the built environment and infrastructure sectors Scope 3 emissions are often well more than half of a company’s emissions.

As companies and financial institutions make Net Zero commitments there is a greater drive to reach out to companies’ supply chains and seek materials that are lower in carbon such as ‘green’ steel, concrete and aluminium. MECLA or the Materials and Embodied Carbon Leaders’ Alliance takes a systemic view of the built environment and through its ‘do-tank’ Working Groups is seeking to break down the barriers to the uptake of low embodied carbon materials as well as support more innovative materials to be accepted in the market.

What are the key learnings from the COP26 summit Glasgow? Have you built any plans around these?

There are plenty of learnings from COP26 including the importance of giving hope to those working towards the ambition of “1.5oC is still alive”. It will require many sectors and many people working together. A key message out of COP26 is the importance of collaboration as well as the focus on the hard to abate sectors.

The First Movers Coalition was announced by the US State Department. a new platform for companies to harness their purchasing power and supply chains to create early markets for innovative clean energy technologies that are key for tackling the climate crisis. At the launch of the First Movers Coalition, more than 25 Founding Members—leading companies from a wide range of industries around the world—made commitments to spur the commercialization of emerging technologies in this decade. 

The fact that the Australian Government now has a long-term signal towards Net Zero by 2050 means industry and capital can plan longer term investments and catalyse industry opportunities towards the decarbonisation pathways needed.  We don’t know how concrete, and cement will get there yet but we have a better idea and understanding of the pathway to achieving this. Innovation will play a major role.

MECLA is making huge inroads in cement/concrete. What innovation areas have you identified that is applicable to the concrete sector? 

There are three main areas of innovation required to fast track the uptake of low embodied concrete, namely:

  • The policy and regulatory environment including specifications, so tenders are determined on time, cost, quality, and carbon as the fourth element, and rewarded as such. 
  • Procurement agencies including government and private clients being confident in asking for low carbon concrete.
  • Supporting low carbon, alternative and innovative materials including support for SCMs as well as carbon capture and usage where there is considerable potential.

We are pre-competitive in our approach so won’t be advocating for one product or company over another.

How do these differ from other areas in construction and building? 

The building and construction industry is a complex ecosystem and there are many players. There are a handful of organisations looking to support the industry with their embodied carbon issues and many are members of MECLA. We are trusted and transparent and through lots of in-kind ‘sweat equity’ MECLA is more than the sum of the parts of our 115 Founding Partners. 

Our Unique Value Proposition is the broad church of members, including government, companies and industry associations, and our systems and pre-competitive approach to tackling the issues at hand.

How does this align your plans with SmartCrete CRC goals?

I believe we are fully aligned to find clever solutions to the massive carbon issues facing the concrete and cement industry as the industry delivers on its commitments to Net Zero and science aligned carbon reduction targets.

What’s next for MECLA? What are the future plans? 

Delivery on our commitments and work streams identified by the different Working Groups. A plan of action is to be developed for the next 12 months by the end of March.

For more information please email: mecla@wwf.org.au 

Join MECLA on Linkedin

Webinar – Decarbonisation Pathways

The recent publication of the document “Decarbonisation Pathways for the Australian Cement and Concrete sector” represents an important step for the industry in charting its course to a lower carbon future. It further represents the completion of the first project funded by SmartCrete CRC, in collaboration with RACE for 2030 CRC and the Cement Industry Federation.

To assist with understanding the content of the document the reports lead authors, Dr Martin Schneider and Dr Christoph Müller, presented at a webinar hosted by SmartCrete CRC on the 1st December 2021. In this webinar, the ambitions for the industry were presented along with the research and innovation areas that need to be explored to achieve these ambitions.

Bio – Martin Schneider

Martin Schneider is Chief Executive of VDZ since 1 January 2000. He has a background in physics and started his career in the cement industry 1991 in the field of environment and sustainability. He was head of VDZ’s department of environmental technology, later he was assigned head of the department of cement chemistry. Being the head of VDZ for 20 years now he has further developed VDZ into a knowledge centre of the cement and concrete industry, providing services for the whole construction value chain. Martin not only heads VDZ with its 200 experts in Düsseldorf but also serves as a strategic advisor for many cement companies around the world.

In 2003 Martin was also assigned managing director of ECRA, the European Cement Research Academy. ECRA is a platform on which the European cement industry and its stakeholders supports, organises and undertakes research activities within the context of the production of cement and its application in concrete. Its main activities today are on carbon capture as well as future grinding technologies.

Bio – Christoph Müller

Christoph Müller is Head of the Concrete Technology Department at VDZ. He studied civil engineering at the Technical University RWTH Aachen; was a Research Associate at the Institute of Building Materials Research of the RWTH Aachen (ibac); and in 2000 achieved a PhD at the RWTH Aachen.

In 2000 Christoph joined VDZ with a focus on concrete technology and durability of concrete (steel corrosion, freeze-thaw resistance, alkali-silica-reaction). Christoph is a member of numerous national and international standardization committees of concrete construction. In 2007 he was the Head of Concrete Technology Department and then Managing Director VDZ Technology gGmbH in 2012.

View the Project page here

SmartCrete CRC up for the challenge

SmartCrete CRC is proud to have been a major contributor to the new independent report “Decarbonization Pathways for the Australian Cement and Concrete Sector” that was launched on the 19th October 2021, and strongly believes that this document charts a practical way forward to lowering sector emissions by 2050.

Click here to download the full Media Release (PDF)

The report identifies 8 decarbonisation pathways with actions that are essential to successfully implement this plan. In addressing its vision to ensure the long-term viability of vital concrete infrastructure, SmartCrete CRC will continue to facilitate the creation of networks between the concrete industry and research providers to address the research requirements that have been identified. SmartCrete CRC is ready to consider relevant projects that support key innovation areas. In addition, the organisation has funding available to realise these projects.

Sustainability is one of the three research streams for SmartCrete CRC and its partners. The goals of the current COP26 summit in Glasgow further validates the need for collaboration between government, industry and research providers to uncover solutions in the fields of technology, application and regulation. SmartCrete CRC provides a unique opportunity for the industry and stakeholders to address these goals and generate a lasting legacy.

“Our challenge to all participants in the concrete supply chain is to examine the topic of climate change and discuss what SmartCrete CRC can do to assist in addressing the issues raised at COP26.”

SmartCrete CRC is facilitating change for the industry, and we require industry contribution and commitment to allow us to leverage practical research and pave the way forward to lower carbon future.

Click here to download the full Media Release (PDF)

Key Pathways To Net Zero For Australian Cement And Concrete Identified

A new independent report titled ‘Decarbonisation Pathways for the Australian Cement and Concrete Sector’ released today confirms the Australian industry’s ambition of net zero carbon cement and concrete to Australian society by 2050 is achievable.

Click here to download the full Media Release (PDF)

VDZ was recently commissioned, based on its international research credentials, to undertake this study to better understand the technologies and practices necessary to decarbonise Australian cement and concrete.¹²

In early October 2021, the Australian cement and concrete industry declared its ambition to deliver net zero carbon cement and concrete by 2050, and the VDZ report demonstrates this outcome can be achieved with the assistance of the full value chain.

The VDZ report notes “The Australian cement and concrete sector has a long history of reducing its CO2 emissions having delivered a 25 per cent reduction since 2000. However, the challenge of decarbonising by 2050 will require significant regulatory, structural and behavioural changes across all segments of the cement and concrete value chain.”

The ability to deliver lower carbon cement and concrete will require significant financial investment to research, pilot and adopt a range of technologies.

“It will also require a transition to a ‘market pull’ environment through leadership in government and private sector procurement policies and changes in regulation to safely promote the uptake of lower carbon products” according to the VDZ report.

The Australian cement and concrete sector understands the long term economic and societal benefits of harnessing the eight identified decarbonisation pathways and key future research requirements identified in the report. These are:

  • Zero emission electricity and transport
  • Innovation through design and construction
  • Further innovation in concrete
  • Increased use of supplementary cementitious materials in concrete
  • New CO2 efficient cements
  • Alternative fuels and green hydrogen
  • Accounting for concrete to uptake CO2 (recarbonation)
  • Capture remaining CO2 (CCUS)

 The sector realises the challenge ahead will require significant financial investment and policy change to support the transition. However, the VDZ Report released today demonstrates that the transition is possible. 

As a trade exposed sector, a fundamental requirement will be that the transition does not lead to undermining the competitiveness of the Australian cement and concrete manufacturing base. 

The Australian cement and concrete sector is now developing engagement plans based on the identified pathways to implement the key recommendations of the report and are committed to reviewing progress on a regular basis. 

Click here to download the full Media Release (PDF)

 Media enquiries: 

Margie Thomson
Chief Executive, Cement Industry Federation
M: 0418 290 058 

Ken Slattery
Chief Executive, Cement, Concrete and Aggregates Australia
M: 0417 497 559 

Warren South
Chief Executive, SmartCrete CRC
M: 0427 169899 

View the Project page here


 1. VDZ is a world-renowned research centre, providing practical and quality-oriented joint research and services in the field of cement and concrete. 

2. Financial and in-kind contributions have been provided by the Cement Industry Federation, Cement, Concrete and Aggregates Australia, SmartCrete CRC and the RACE for 2030 CRC.  

Working Smarter with the turnKey CRC application

SmartCrete CRC is one of the smallest Collaborative Research Centres awarded grant funding in the last five CRC rounds and is run by a small staff of eight full and part time employees.

Two of the keys to efficiency and productivity success for the SmartCrete CRC are the application of turnKey CRC Project Reporting software and the enabling of project leads to input and manage their projects online.

Click here to download the full Media Release (PDF)

Project Efficiency

Initially developed by Autism CRC, the turnKey application has been further enhanced by the SmartCrete CRC team to provide an end-to-end project management systems that allows project leads to manage the entire project lifecycle from project proposal, evaluation, approval and execution, to progress reporting and project milestone tracking. Additional features allow for project budget management, automated reporting against the Commonwealth milestones and project specific summary dashboards.

Research Office Portfolio Management

For our Academic partners turnKey provides a simple method for the Research Office (RO) to oversee their portfolio of projects against their budgets, project portfolio objectives and staffing allocations through dashboards that leverage powerful data visualistion tools.

Effective Relationship and Communication Management

turnKey is built on Salesforce’s Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform and allows SmartCrete CRC to establish multi-level contacts through partner organisations based on their involvement in projects and decision making.

This functionality allows SmartCrete to maintain effective communications with partner organisations through an integrated marketing plan that allows the use of email for CRC updates, project outcomes, shared learnings and important key dates.

Click here to download the full Media Release (PDF)

Partner Profile
Dr Salwan Al-Assafi

Dr Salwan Al-Assafi

General Manager R&D
Paintback


Tell us a bit about yourself, your career path, interests, and hobbies.

I am a Materials Scientist. I received my postgraduate degrees from the University of Florida in the US. I have a broad industrial R&D background in areas ranging from construction materials to high-performance composite materials. My career journey has been anything but boring, working in a range of industries in various countries. My journey started in New Jersey, followed by Auckland and Dubai, before ending up in Melbourne. I have over 15 year’s experience in managing R&D programs, with an emphasis on processing and performance of materials. As for hobbies I enjoy biking, nature walks, and travelling.

Tell us about your role at Paintback.

My role at Paintback is to lead the R&D Team and manage the R&D portfolio.  An important aspect in my role is to identify and secure new strategic R&D opportunities to deliver our stewardship outcomes.  I am also active in looking for opportunities to collaborate with various industries and academic institutions that share in our purpose.

Who is Paintback and what makes them unique?

Paintback is an industry-led initiative designed to divert unwanted paint and packaging from ending in landfill and vital waterways.  Paintback is driven by the Australian paint industry and the major companies that supply around 90% of all the architectural and decorative (A&D) paint sold in Australia. Paintback’s founding members are Dulux, Haymes, PPG, Resene and Wattyl.  What makes our stewardship unique is the strong focus on R&D programs to achieve our objectives in creating a net environmental benefit and deliver sustainable solutions for our material streams.

What is the main driver for Paintback’s partnership with SmartCrete CRC?

Our aim is to develop processes and procedures to upcycle our water-based paint into admixture for concrete in non-structural applications. SmartCrete is a great vehicle to help us achieve our objectives by facilitating collaboration with industry and academic experts in the field of concrete materials.  SmartCrete also offers a comprehensive approach from proof of concept to commercialisation, and provides access to partners throughout the supply chain.

How is your research with SmartCrete CRC able to facilitate in helping Paintback achieve their business goals?

SmartCrete is providing access to industrial and academic partners with technical expertise and state-of-the-art equipment to help Paintback achieve its circular economy goals by developing highly valuable applications for the concrete industry.

Describe some of the problems or challenges you are trying to solve in the industry?

Paintback is at the forefront of developing circular economy solutions from used paint that would benefit the concrete industry and reduce reliance on virgin materials in Australia. 

Success requires an effort from all those who participate in and influence the supply and value chains, to play their part in helping to keep these valuable resources circulating for as long as possible.  It requires a different way of thinking, to problem solve and see many materials that currently go to waste, as something valuable and worth reusing.

In my experience, the concrete and infrastructure sector are early adopters of this role and through SmartCrete we can develop a robust, evidence-based, specification for circular products that meet their needs.

What changes are you aiming to achieve with your work in the industry that will impact the lives of future generations?

Paintback’s vision is to take used paint’s colourful past to a brighter future of innovative re-use. 

For example, the adoption of water-based paint as an admixture will contribute to the concrete industry’s drive for a green and sustainable future.

We hope our leadership will inspire others to take responsibility for their products and help decouple our future growth and standard of living from consuming the earth’s finite and precious resources.