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Why is Miscanthus biomass so important in making construction more sustainable?

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  • 4 min read

Providing a guest blog this month, we have Duco Reitsma, CEO of Durecon Group, behind the patented product, Econcreed, a Miscanthus-based concrete that’s reducing CO2 emissions in the construction industry…

Construction is responsible for approximately 11% of global CO2 emissions. In order to prevent further environmental damage and climate change, it is necessary to reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. Biomass can play a significant role in achieving this goal by storing CO2. However, the conservative mindset, strict regulations, and addiction to cheap concrete in the construction industry make it difficult to implement innovative initiatives quickly.

Econcreed is a biomass-based concrete that was developed with a top 3 building company in the Netherlands 5 years ago with the aim of contributing to further sustainability in construction. After 2 years of development, Econcreed was created as a Miscanthus biomass-based lightweight concrete with a positive footprint of 80 Kg per m3. It is a straightforward biomaterials-based construction concept that brings together the worlds of farmers and (prefab) concrete factories. It’s actively present in Dutch Infra projects, starting up in residential, searching for partnerships in the UK and Europe.

Econcreed is a local for local concept that creates a new revenue stream into a new market segment for farmers in addition to their existing crops. By growing Miscanthus, which requires low maintenance, is pesticide-free, and yields high biomass annually, farmers can add value by shredding, calibrating, and impregnating the Miscanthus, resulting in higher earnings per ton/ha. The Miscanthus can then be delivered in a container to a nearby concrete factory for use in the production process.

The concrete factory can incorporate the Miscanthus into the existing production process by mixing it with a standard cement recipe instead of gravel. The cement-biomass mixture is then hardened in molds, resulting in a lightweight (specific gravity of 800 Kg, one-third the weight of normal concrete!) prefab concrete. The fossilized Miscanthus biomass offsets the negative CO2 of the cement mixture, resulting in a positive footprint per m3. Econcreed is a biobased construction application that contributes tangibly to further CO2 reduction in the construction industry.

Econcreed has a wide range of applications, from residential or utility applications such as separation walls, flooring, cladding, and paving, to Infra eco sound reduction walls next to train, highway, or residential areas, high fire-resistant tunnel panels (with a dual function of sound reduction and fire resistance), or fire safety separation walls in high-risk wildfire areas close to residential areas. The demand for Econcreed, Miscanthus-based prefab lightweight CO2 reducing concrete, is therefore increasing. International pressure to achieve 2030 and 2050 climate goals is rising, and the possibility of a CO2 tax being levied on major CO2 polluters increases the interest in natural, biomass-based construction solutions that reduce CO2 emissions.

Miscanthus is the most developed and easily processed biomass with additional environmental benefits, including high biomass output and CO2 storage. Available in the UK and all over Europe, parts of Africa and Asia Pacific. Therefore, the demand for Miscanthus (and Econcreed) will undoubtedly increase over the next decade.

Duco Reitsma