In mid-June 2021, Aachen Building Experts e.V. (ABE) hosted a short conference at the premises of Aachen-based Lucem GmbH, the well-known manufacturer of light-transmitting concrete products. The ABE association considers itself a network of excellence for innovative construction extending beyond the greater Aachen area and interlinking leading companies, mostly from the construction industry, with the Aachen institutions of higher education and many service providers. The organizing team conceived the three-hour event entitled “Catalysts for Innovation” so that it complied with the requirements arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, including the related precautionary measures.
The increasing significance of this advocacy network is certainly due to its high-profile board members, including Joachim Nesseler, Managing Partner of Nesseler Grünzig Gruppe, as chairman and Ludwig Florack, Managing Director of Florack Bauunternehmung GmbH, as treasurer, as well as Prof. Dr.-Ing. Thomas Gries, Head of the Institute of Textile Technology (ITA) at RWTH Aachen University.
At the beginning, Goar T. Werner, Executive Director of Aachen Building Experts e.V., welcomed the about 50 people attending the event. In his welcoming address, the ABE director pointed out that 33 founding members had established the association five years ago and that this number has grown to an impressive 120 today. Its idea is to create a network across the entire value chain in order to discuss topics amongst members but also with universities, with the aim of promoting building innovations. Besides the Institute of Textile Technology (ITA), the Institute of Building Materials Research (ibac) at RWTH Aachen University chaired by Prof. Dr.-Ing. Michael Raupach is another key ABE member. The association is working closely with this institute to organize the first Aachen Construction Congress to be held at the ibac on 1-2 June 2022.
After Goar T. Werner’s introduction, Dr. Andreas Roye, Managing Director of Lucem GmbH, took the floor and again summarized the four business lines of the company, namely:
International project business, for instance the Capital Bank building in Amman, Jordan;
Interior design, where Lucem provides translucent concrete desks usable for display purposes;
Bathroom design, for which the company produces bathtub enclosures;
Urban furniture such as light-transmitting concrete pavers and luminous benches, as recently implemented in the Urban Star project in Augsburg designed by Annabau, a Berlin architects’ practice, as well as a street-integrated guidance system for emergency vehicles in Rhauderfehn in the German State of Lower Saxony.
Institute of Textile Technology (ITA) at RWTH Aachen
Gözdem Dittel M. Sc. delivered the keynote speech on behalf of the Institute of Textile Technology (ITA) at RWTH Aachen University. She works in the field of construction components and dedicates her research to textile-reinforced concrete. The ITA is currently developing new types of textile reinforcement for 3D concrete printing.
However, the ITA continues to consider concrete printing an immature process because reinforcement installation is still problematic in logistical and operational terms. For instance, it has previously been impossible to print structural components to be reinforced, such as wall panels, in a single pass. For this purpose, the ITA has developed an innovative method and applied for a related patent recently. After the embargo period, however, BFT will publish a comprehensive report on this novelty.
Holcim (Deutschland) GmbH
Lucem GmbH entered into a product partnership with Holcim (Deutschland) GmbH, which Dr. Jens Ewert represented at the short ABE conference by delivering another keynote speech. Initially, he stressed that Holcim increasingly considers itself a conglomerate within the construction industry. This continues to include cement as the main business, but also mineral aggregates and ready-mixed concrete as well as the related expertise. The company currently employs 70,000 people worldwide. The group has embarked on an ambitious path supported by its strong ability to innovate, particularly in research.
In this context, Dr. Ewert referred to infra-lightweight concrete (ILC), the cover story of the 2021 edition of Jahrbuch Beton Bauteile. Holcim named its ILC ThermoPact. This material permits heat-insulated, monolithic construction using natural mineral aggregates.
Dr. Ewert concluded by referring to a new Holcim pilot project of Westküste 100 (“West Coast 100”), which will be located at the Lägerdorf cement works near Hamburg. This joint regional project aiming to produce hydrogen involves not only the cement company but also a number of windfarm operators, the Port of Brunsbüttel, and some oil refineries. In this interdisciplinary project, Holcim will contribute to producing hydrogen for aviation. Production is set to start in 2035.