Low-cost replacement for building materials

Low-cost replacement for building materials

Can you imagine making building materials of crop residue and industrial by-products? GreenJams did! Its founder Tarun Jami spent five years studying hempcrete academ...

Can you imagine making building materials of crop residue and industrial by-products? GreenJams did! Its founder Tarun Jami spent five years studying hempcrete academically to equip himself with the technical skills to create a carbon-negative product. After several trials, he invented Agrocrete – a carbon-negative building material comprising crop residue and a lime-based binder. While Agrocrete is a scientific anomaly, the most amazing aspect is that it augments farmers’ income, keeps the air clean, and generates rural employment. Further, it helps reverse climate change. Tarun Jami shares more on this green revolution in the cement industry….The journeyDuring his undergrad days of studying civil engineering, Jami came to learn about climate change and the impact of construction activities on it. Since he became conscious of the destruction construction would cause to our environment, he started looking out for technologies and materials that would mitigate this impact. Towards the end of his engineering course, he stumbled upon a building material called hempcrete, which was carbon-negative and made of hemp. He spent five years studying hempcrete to equip himself with the technical skills to create Agrocrete. In 2017, he began his PhD at CSIR-Central Building Research Institute (CSIR-CBRI), Roorkee. Can you imagine that construction could help reverse climate change? That epiphany set Jami on a journey that has brought him this far. Changing the traditional processAgrocrete is made from crop residue. It has undergone a lot of trials. It emerged as a response to a much deeper societal problem in India. About 44 per cent of Delhi-NCR’s poor winter air quality is because of crop residue burning. Almost 100 million tonne of crop residue is burnt annually in India, leading to almost Rs 2 trillion of economic loss to the country. In addition to augmenting farmers’ income, keeping the air clean and generating rural employment, this carbon-negative product is also beneficial in terms of fire resistance, resistance to decay and durability.Cost-effective Agrocrete helps reduce the cost of construction by almost 50 per cent in comparison to red bricks. The larger block sizes enabled by the significantly lower weight make it easy for masons to work with. It is able to reduce mortar joints by more than 60 per cent and plaster requirements by almost 50 per cent because of the cleaner finish. Construction speed is increased by almost 2.5x. The manufacturing of Agrocrete is a completely zero-emissions process. GreenJams utilises a patent-pending advanced alkali activation chemical technology. Further, it does not use any furnaces, employing latent chemical reactions to achieve strength. Solution to CO2 emissionsA significant source of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions is cement production. About 7-8 per cent of global carbon emissions come from clinker manufacturing alone. Any reduction in clinker production is beneficial for the planet and humankind. Materials such as fly-ash bricks, AAC blocks and other novel building materials use clinker-based cement, which contribute a significant sum to the products’ embodied carbon. What is clinker? In simple terms, raw materials like limestone and clay are crushed and mixed with iron ore or ash and put into cylindrical containers – kilns – at around 1,450oC. This process is called calcination; when the mixture is split into calcium oxide and CO2, it renders a new product called clinker.As a solution to this problem, GreenJamss has come up with another innovative product, BINDR – a 100 per cent upcycled product that can help cement companies cut their carbon footprint by more than 80 per cent compared to regular Portland cement with a characteristic strength equivalent to 43 grade OPC. (GreenJams isn’t yet claiming structural capabilities for BINDR as it hasn’t yet proven its long-term durability.) Being a 100 per cent upcycled product, its carbon footprint can be cut by more than 80 per cent when compared to regular Portland cement. At 0.1 kg CO2 per kg, the embodied carbon can’t go lower at this price point.BINDR could potentially be used to make products such as fly-ash bricks and AAC blocks. Further, by making mortars for block work and plastering, the carbon footprint of buildings can be reduced.Live exampleGreenJams has converted an office space at Roorkee into a manufacturing unit. It built this 1,100 sq ft industrial building from scratch in just four days at a cost of only Rs 200 per sq ft. Further, GreenJams was able to capture a total of 3.1 tonne of carbon dioxide, making it carbon-negative. It was able to achieve a 30 per cent lower cost of construction compared to red bricks by reducing the mortar joints and reduce construction time by 60 per cent. This manufacturing facility was built at Rs 2 lakh; it would have cost about Rs 5 lakh had it been built using red bricks. Construction pace was increased by 2.5x and, consequently, labour costs were reduced.More on the way…GreenJams is currently working on supplying Agrocrete hollow and solid blocks and BINDR to multiple residential projects in Punjab, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Delhi-NCR and Uttar Pradesh. These are individual residences being built by private clients and almost 100,000 units of Agrocrete hollow and solid blocks and about 200 bags of BINDR are being supplied. Further, GreenJams is currently in the process of setting up a brand new 2,000 blocks per day manufacturing facility in Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh. The facility is expected to be operational in coming months. GreenJams is also looking for franchising partners who could set up Agrocrete block manufacturing facilities in the markets of Karnataka, Maharashtra and Telangana, from where it has received several inquiries.Enhancing R&DGreenJams is focused on R&D and the team is capable, fast and enterprising enough to develop new products that satisfy customer demands. In fact, its Agrocrete plaster was created in response to a customer’s request. The company is also looking to launch a range of carbon-negative home décor products under a new brand name, Sanscrete, which would focus on objects for home décor and corporate and wedding gifting. It could potentially be the world’s first carbon-negative home décor brand! 

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