ResourceFull develops eco-friendly benches for Leuven

Recently, the city of Leuven installed the long-awaited benches on the renewed Herbert Hooverplein. The benches are the proverbial icing on the cake of the transformed place in the center of the city. The square is now a pleasant, green and car-free city square with space for terraces and events.

The new benches have a design that is specifically tailored to the square and the ground-level fountain depicting the medieval town plan. The benches are made out of eco-friendly concrete elements with wooden seating on top. The choice by the city of Leuven for this type of concrete is very deliberate.

“With this process we can convert a waste stream into a useful product. Waste becomes a raw material, that's a good example of a circular economy. And you save up to 75% cement, which also gives you a CO2 saving of 75%.” Dirk Vansina, alderman of public works.

The eco-friendly concrete was developed by ResourceFull, a project partner in the URBCON project. The start-up also has its origins in Leuven.

How did ResourceFull get involved in this project?

Wouter Crijns: "We met Valerie Philippaerts, public domain director at the city of Leuven, a couple of years ago during one of our first exhibits as a company at a networking event in Leuven. It was clear that our goals as a company and city aligned: we focus on building sustainable.

We remained in contact during the years and as our technology was developing more and more, we looked for an opportunity to showcase it in the city of Leuven. The new seating elements for the renewed Herbert Hooverplein turned out to be the perfect fit."


What makes the concrete developed by ResourceFull so special?

"Traditional concrete has long been the building material of choice. This is mainly due to the ease of use and proven quality. Unfortunately, the cement used to make concrete is responsible for 8% of global CO2 emissions.  

Cement production is a high-energy intensive process, during which approximately 875 kg CO2 is released into the air. 30% to 40% of these emissions come from the energy required to heat limestone and clay to 1500°C, while 60% comes from the decarbonization of limestone.

At ResourceFull we offer a circular and green binder alternative that is based on the use of secondary resources such as metallurgical slags, biomass ashes and calcined clays. Traditional cement reacts with water, after which it hardens and builds strength. Water alone is however not sufficient to initiate the reaction of these secondary mineral streams. To initiate the reaction mechanism, the addition of alkali salts is necessary. ResourceFull’s activators consist of a selection of well-chosen alkali salts and compatible additives for the production of workable and high-quality ecological concrete."

What did this mean for the project in Leuven?

"For the city of Leuven we developed a specific process in which large quantities of secondary raw materials can be used as useful resource for the production of these elements. In particular, for the project in Leuven, we incorporated 7000 kg of secondary raw materials, saved 5200 kg of cement and saved 4 291 kg of CO2. To put this into perspective: by choosing for these benches, the city of Leuven provided CO2 savings equivalent to the planting of 22 trees or the removal of 3 cars from the road for an entire year."


How does this relate to our URBCON project?

"In URBCON we’re doing very similar things and taking it even a step further. The project combines world-leading know-how on by-product based construction minerals, supplementary cementitious materials and alkali-activated binders.

In URBCON we aim to optimize the use of by-products such as metallurgical slags and incineration ashes for the production of sustainable and high quality concrete. This all with the focus on the metropolitan areas of Ghent, Rotterdam and Northern France."


Do you see an increased demand from public / private entities for more environmentally friendly concrete?

"I think it has become apparent that there is a need for change if we want to face the greatest challenge of our era: climate change. A sustainable way of building as well as closing the materials loop are crucial aspects in mitigating the problem and the demand for this is luckily clearly visible.

We experienced it firsthand years ago with the city of Leuven, and it has only strengthened over time with more and more companies defining sustainability as a key driver and a multitude of collaborations such as URBCON in which academia, industry and public entities work closely together to bring these green technologies to market."

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