Pedestrian precincts, public squares and private patios: Concrete pavers made by Semmelrock can be found all over the place. With its production processes focused on resource efficiency and recycling, Wienerberger’s subsidiary contributes to the circular economy.
A strong network in Central and Eastern Europe
Semmelrock is represented in twelve countries of the CEE region, employing a labor force of 900 people. Pavers are produced at 14 production sites, preferably from local raw materials. “Thanks to our local sites, we are in a position to provide optimal customer service. Our on-site presence strengthens the region, and short transport distances are good for the environment”, says Gerhard Panzenböck, who is responsible for strategic product management and sustainability at Semmelrock.
Pavers laid in a bed of sand or gravel have an extremely long service life and can easily be removed and re-laid. This is an advantage in excavation works; moreover, individual broken pavers can be replaced at low cost. Resource efficiency and waste avoidance are essential aspects of the production process: Two million tons of raw materials are processed annually, and the scrap rate in paver production has been reduced to about 2%.
Thanks to our local operations, we are in a position to provide optimal customer service. Our on-site presence strengthens the region, and short transport distances are good for the environment.
A second life for pavers
“We are actively pursuing the goal of making all our products reusable or completely recyclable”, says Gerhard Panzenböck, confirming Semmelrock’s commitment to the circular economy. When paved surfaces are broken up, most of the crushed material is used as a subgrade in road construction or as filler material for landscaping.
In the future, natural raw materials are to be replaced step by step by suitable recycled materials or alternative aggregates. The availability of secondary raw materials is a challenge to be addressed, as there is currently no adequate framework in place for the return and recycling of pavers. Moreover, another prerequisite for the circular economy is that the materials available meet the high-quality standards required.
Best Practice: Cradle-to-Cradle certification
The international Cradle-to-Cradle certification confirms the existence of a closed-loop production system. The products to be certified undergo a thorough process of evaluation covering their entire life cycle, from raw materials to production and use, demolition and dismantling, right through to re-usability. After first-time certification of selected Semmelrock pavers in Austria in 2015, the certification regime was rolled out in Romania in 2020 and extended to include the range of ARTE® segmental arch pavers.
Segmental arch paving is based on the concept of traditional cobblestones, combining old-style flair with modern technology. This innovative product system looks as if it were made up of many separate stones, but actually only consists of four or ten stone elements. The integrated Einstein System® ensures a superlative bonding effect and the different shades of color catch the eye.
New ways of recycling and new formulations
Climate protection is another target area of Semmelrock’s innovative drive. “We have developed our own technology to recycle fresh concrete and feed it back into the production cycle. Currently, we are working on solutions for in-house recycling of cured concrete”, explains Head of Concrete Technology Volkmar Werner. Within the framework of Wienerberger’s Sustainability Strategy 2020+, work on additional concepts for the use of recycled material and on material-efficient formulations will be continued.
We have developed our own technology to recycle fresh concrete and feed it back into the production cycle. Currently, we are working on solutions for in-house recycling of cured concrete.
Products made from eco-concrete help to reduce the volume of CO2 emissions. The company is also working on the reduction of energy consumption and water usage. Although the demand for energy in production is comparatively low, Semmelrock is exploring all possible options for energy conservation – for example by installing energy-saving lighting systems or the efficient production and sparing use of compressed air. The consumption of water has been optimized through installation of closed-cycle systems and investments in water recycling facilities.
Example: How water recycling works
Innovative product properties generate added value
The Semmelrock product portfolio comprises water-permeable ecological slabs and pavers as well as grid pavers. Rainwater is discharged directly into the ground and returned to the natural water cycle. After precipitation, a large percentage of water evaporates both from the paver bed and via the joints. As a result, air humidity in the immediate surroundings increases, which has a noticeable cooling effect most welcome in a dry summer.
Expert opinions produced by the Neuwied Material Testing and Research Institute confirm the lasting infiltration performance of these products. Water-permeable pavers and slabs reduce the risk of local flooding, improve the climate and form a complete and durable drainage system. As an alternative, grass can be grown in the joints. Compared to a sand-filled joint, a green joint has a notably lower infiltration performance. However, on account of its higher storage capacity, it improves the micro-climate.
Alongside its efforts to advance the circular economy, Semmelrock is also pursuing the two other priorities of the Wienerberger Sustainability Strategy 2020+: The company’s range of eco-pavers contributes to the preservation of biodiversity. Also, in the interest of decarbonization, the use of clinker in cement is being reduced. Looking at the overall picture, there is still plenty to be done.