“I believe it is extremely important for more radical and sustainable innovations in the construction sector similar to what all of the LaFargeHolcim Next Generation winners have proposed to help move this industry towards cleaner and more circular solutions.”
Noor Skaikh, Consultant in North America
Buildings are essential to human existence and are a major driver of emissions. Construction alone accounts for 24% of the raw materials extracted from the Earth. As the global population continues to grow and progress thereby increasing global construction activity the problem will only intensify.
Sustainable sourcing of building materials is a big part of the solution. It’s important to identify solutions to reduce the climate impact of building materials while providing a just and equitable solution that can be utilized in various parts of the world. Anthesis Consultant Noor Shaikh and teammate Daniel Francisco Gonzalez, CEO and CTO of IXIM Bioproducts are addressing these problems with their innovation, a bio-based brick made from “waste”. It won 2nd place in North America in the LaFargeHolcim Next Generation Awards, a notable sustainable design award.
Daniel began working on the innovation in Columbia. A few years later, Noor met Daniel at the University of Waterloo, and joined the project applying his background in materials science and deep interest in this topic to expand the project beyond just bricks to include panels and other product shapes using other by-products such as cement kiln dust.
Noor explained that, “the construction industry has been quite slow to adapt to innovation and new production methods, thus it still relies on extremely old technologies to manufacture products such as cement and bricks. While there has been some new development and more focus on sustainability recently, there is still a lot more work to be done to limit the environmental and social impact of this sector and address the increasing concern of resource depletion. I believe it is extremely important for more radical and sustainable innovations in the construction sector similar to what all of the LaFargeHolcim Next Generation winners have proposed to help move this industry towards cleaner and more circular solutions.”
IXIM’s core value is to leverage different types of agro-industrial residues to develop low-cost and environmentally friendly materials aiming to reduce and replace the use of mined or synthetic aggregates commonly used as building materials.
IXIM Bioproducts’ bio-based bricks
Conventional brick production is highly energy and temperature intensive. Noor’s team developed a way to convert local by-products from cement production (an industry that accounts for 5% of global CO2 emissions), agriculture and sawmills into sustainable building materials. The bio-based bricks and panels are made from blended mixtures of concrete kiln dust, agricultural crop residues, sawdust and other “waste” ingredients and come in a variety of attractive colors and textures.
The process, which is energy efficient and adaptable to available resources, supports a circular economy and makes use of a local workforce. The bricks produced are both compact and resistant, with good insulation capacities.
The raw materials can be sourced locally in most parts of the world which means the process can be used globally, reducing the distance building materials travel to the job site. The building materials are also lightweight, further reducing the amount of transportation fuel required. They offer a truly sustainable solution as they can be composted at the end of their life. These mixtures can be tamped to create partition walls or used to create bricks, panels and veneers. With different fibers, different colors and textures can be achieved, creating many aesthetic possibilities.
Next steps for IXIM Bioproducts
The focus on the next few years will be to successfully demonstrate a scalable production system and commercially viable product that improves the sustainability of building materials. The following are a few specific steps that they have outlined to focus on with the help of the LaFargeHolcim award prize money and through additional funding that they have applied for:
- Verify product properties
- Refine production processes
- Establish a supply chain
- Demonstrate prototype in real-world environments
- Demonstrate circular economy principles
- Secure product sustainability certifications
Learn more on the IXIMbio website
More about the LafargeHolcim Awards
The LafargeHolcim Awards are the world’s most significant competition for sustainable design. The competition is held by the LafargeHolcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction in five world regions and in two categories: The Main category is for projects that are ready for implementation, whereas the Next Generation category seeks visionary concepts and is open to participants up to 30 years of age.
More about Noor Shaikh
Noor has been a Consultant with Anthesis since March 2020. His work supports multiple Anthesis practice areas due to his technical ability and knowledge of sustainable materials. His recent projects have focused on product sustainability initiatives in the chemicals and metals sector, Science Based Targets with the food, apparel and retail sector, GHG emissions and the circular economy. Noor has also completed GHG inventory trainings for suppliers and developed various tools to calculate corporate GHG emissions and product environmental impacts.
Noor has completed a Master of Environmental Science in Sustainability Management from the University of Waterloo. His thesis focused on sustainable supply chain management, criticality assessments and responsible sourcing practices regarding mineral and metal resources following a life cycle approach. His research included the current use of environmental and social assessment tools for sourcing of raw materials (particularly conflict minerals) from a company perspective as well as the development of a calculation tool based on LCA methodology to assess the raw material social and geopolitical supply risks. Noor also has a Bachelor of Science in Materials Science and Engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology where he focused on structural materials.
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