Question 1: It is often assumed that sustainable construction comes with higher costs. How has YTL Cement addressed this concern by developing eco-friendly materials and how are they able to reduce the environmental impact of construction projects while still being cost-effective?
There is a hesitance among industry players to embrace sustainability because of the perception of higher cost but this is not necessarily true.
As the leading building materials provider, we have leveraged our experience and expertise to provide our customers with sustainable building materials at an affordable price. Our ECO Product Range is competitively priced while having the same, if not better performance as well as providing our customers with lower embodied carbon and cost savings in a project’s lifecycle.
When using the ECO Product Range, including ECOCem, ECOConcrete, ECOSand, and ECODrymix, projects can incorporate sustainability aspects such as:
- ECOCem: YTL Cement’s range of low-carbon cement, ECOCem, is made with up to 40% recycled materials and a lower percentage of virgin materials. The carbon intensity of products in this range is 20-50% lower compared to Portland Cement (OPC), decreasing the overall carbon footprint of a project and making the low-carbon circular economy a reality.
- ECOConcrete: A ready-mix concrete with lower embodied carbon content compared to conventional (CEM I) concrete. ECOConcrete is made with lower cement content to achieve 20-60% embodied carbon reduction. The range includes custom mixes to match different construction needs such as FlowBuild Pro – a self-consolidating concrete which can be placed with lesser energy, SuperBuild – a high-strength concrete that can be specified to last 100 years and FiberBuild for heavy duty flooring without the need for extensive steel rebar.
- ECOSand: ECOSand is YTL Cement’s high-quality, engineered sand. YTL Cement’s unique production process produces ECOSand that is superior in particle shape, has consistent size distribution and contains no organic impurities. These cubical-shaped fine aggregates are ideal for ready-mixed concreting, and precast concrete applications. By using ECOSand, the environmental concerns of sand mining are negated altogether, contributing to sustainable construction.
- ECODrymix: ECODrymix is a range of environmentally friendly premix mortars. Occupant health is an important criterion for construction materials applied indoors. YTL Cement meets this need with its certified low Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) ECODrymix. The range includes products for construction and repairs to achieve the perfect wall and floor.
Question 2: In terms of long-term sustainability, how can Malaysian players ensure sustainable buildings’ maintenance and ongoing performance?
There is an increasing interest in new construction materials. In our quest for novel construction materials and cost-cutting, we must not forget the most important criterion – building safety. In the long term, building durability and safety are key aspects when it comes to long-term sustainability.
The good news is that with our Eco Range Products, you would not have to sacrifice one for the other. A good example is our ECOConcrete series. The range includes custom mixes to match different construction needs such as FlowBuild Pro – a self-consolidating concrete which can be placed with lesser energy, SuperBuild – a high-strength concrete that can be specified to last 100 years and FiberBuild for heavy-duty flooring without the need for extensive steel rebar.
In tropical countries like Malaysia, heavy rainfall and flooding are common. ECOConcrete’s rigid and dense composition allows structures to endure high water pressures during floods, providing shelter during disasters, and reducing post-disaster reconstruction costs and time.
This innovation allows players to ensure long-term sustainable buildings with additional savings. Adopting sustainable materials such as ECOConcrete results in more durable and low-maintenance buildings, which helps reduce maintenance costs in the long run. Concrete also becomes stronger over time, improving its durability and further providing sustainable returns.
Question 3: Can you explain how sustainable construction is defined and what it means specifically for Malaysian players in the construction industry?
Sustainable construction has many definitions in the industry. But what’s important is that we should start with the end in mind when defining sustainable construction instead of approaching it as a ‘box to be ticked’. We need to ask ourselves “What environmental performance do we want to achieve?” to then determine our sustainable strategies.
With that in mind, sustainable construction can be defined as a build environment with the following elements:
- Optimized Footprint and Land Use: This implies that developers in Malaysia need to incorporate a well-balanced approach that considers economic, social, and environmental values. They should allocate land for different uses across the landscape in a way that effectively harmonizes these three aspects.
- Low Embodied Carbon: A project can achieve this by using lower embodied carbon materials that are also durable and locally available such as sustainable building materials, low emission construction equipment, optimised resource use with efficient construction methods such as BIM and IBS, as well as end-of-life resource recovery.
- Low Operational Carbon Throughout its Lifespan: Achieving low operational carbon throughout its lifespan involves energy-efficient design, optimising natural light use, strategic building orientation, on-site renewable energy, and water efficiency measures.
- Resilience: Buildings and infrastructure must be capable of withstanding of changing environment. Apart from risk zoning and stormwater management, structures should be designed and constructed to endure potential disasters.
- Occupant Well-being: Non-toxic environment and improved air quality contribute to the well-being of occupants and in turn, improve their quality of life.
- Building Connectivity: Lowering carbon footprints can be achieved by constructing buildings with connectivity to public transportation systems. This enables reduced reliance on individual vehicles and promotes more sustainable commuting options for occupants.
Question 4: Given that the implementation of sustainable construction practices and selecting environmentally-friendly building materials can be quite a challenge, how can these challenges be overcome?
There are various resources available. The first step is to understand what is available. The CIDB’s Embodied Carbon Inventory Data for Construction Materials aids consultants and project owners in choosing lower embodied carbon building materials to foster more sustainable construction practices.
Secondly, it is important to work with the right partners – someone with a proven track record and strong technical support. Our wide range of ECO Products, produced according to standards under stringent quality control procedures, can offer end-to-end building solutions to meet different construction needs from durability to strength to perfect wall and floor finishing. YTL Cement has supplied its ECO Products to multiple iconic projects like the KLCC, Merdeka 118, SMART Tunnel, just to name a few.
Our Construction Development Lab (CDL) is equipped with cement and concrete laboratories and has a team of experienced personnel who assists customers in selecting and formulating the optimal concrete mix design that meets both environmental performance and project applications. This ensures an environmentally friendly approach to construction while maintaining project excellence. We recently launched www.ytlcement.com to help our customers learn about our product offerings and facilitate their selection of the right products for the right applications.
Finally, in order for the construction industry to progress toward sustainability, all stakeholders must come together. YTL Cement recently signed a MOU with the Construction Research Institute of Malaysia (CREAM) to accelerate the industry’s transition to sustainable construction. Through this MOU, we will be initiating various programs under three main focus areas: construction personnel development, R&D, and sustainable construction.
Question 5: Sustainable buildings offer benefits beyond environmental friendliness, including improved quality of life for occupants. Can you further elaborate on the specific benefits?
When it comes to sustainable buildings, we want to highlight how materials make a difference through its various benefits, even beyond the environmental aspects:
Sustainable buildings have an extended lifespan. Our ECOConcrete can be specified for 100-year durability. Even without that, concrete is known to last for decades. That translates into lower embodied carbon from maintenance and replacement. This again contributes to the lower embodied carbon of the entire project.
Health and Well-being
ECOConcrete and ECODrymix are inert; meaning they are chemically non-reactive and do not emit harmful levels of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC). This is an important feature any building material must have at such a time when the incidence of cancer and other health conditions is reported to be on the rise.
Recyclable at the End of Service Life
Sustainable buildings also involve their usage beyond the building lifecycle. Although it is not widely practised in our country at the moment, recycling building materials at the end of its service life is an important lever in sustainable construction. For example, demolished concrete can be recycled for reuse.
Fire Resistance and Concrete Building Resilience
Resilient structures are vital for economic, social, and environmental sustainability. Concrete’s fire-resistant properties prevent it from burning, melting, or producing toxic gases. It acts as a fire barrier, reducing damage and the need for costly demolition and reconstruction, benefiting communities economically and environmentally.
As shared in Question 2, living in a tropical country means frequent heavy rain and susceptibility to flooding in certain areas. Floods exert substantial pressure on buildings, compounded by debris and dynamic water forces. ECOConcrete’s rigid and dense composition allows structures to endure high water pressures during floods, providing shelter during disasters and reducing post-disaster reconstruction costs and time.
Question 6: Looking ahead, what future trends of innovations does YTL Cement foresee in the sustainable constructions and building materials in the industry?
Some of the trends we observe include:
Increasing Awareness / Better Environmental Knowledge
- Indeed, there has been a rising awareness of going green, with influences from:
- Media and social media impact all layers of society in raising awareness and the need for action.
- CIDB’s Embodied Carbon Inventory Data for Construction Materials helps consultants and interested project owners select lower embodied carbon building materials.
- Trade publications and seminars to fast-track the learning curve of key industry players.
- Today, green buildings are still the exception, but the good news is that we are witnessing a shift in construction practices, making green buildings the new norm. Notably, the focus on Scope 3 and embodied carbon, along with the adoption of innovative construction practices like IBS (Industrialised Building System) and BIM (Building Information Modelling), is driving this positive change.
- We will also see shifts in the following area, although these will take some time to gain traction:
- Design for Demolition
- Recycled Building Material Components
- Adoption of Sustainable Building Materials
Increased Focus on Embodied Carbon Reduction
- We are shifting away from tick-the-box approaches and embracing a purposeful mindset that starts by asking, “What environmental performance do we want to achieve?” This approach emphasizes thoughtful and strategic planning to reach our sustainability goals, with a particular focus on reducing embodied carbon.
- Embodied carbon is defined as the sum impact of all the GHG emissions attributed to the materials throughout their life cycle (extracting from the ground, manufacturing, construction, maintenance, and end of life/disposal).
- Key players will be focusing on reducing their embodied carbon in all aspects of their construction projects. Factors driving this change: (i) Sustainability disclosure. Scope 3 emissions are an important indicator for developers, (ii) Green building and green label certification.
To play a role in addressing this requirement, our products are lower in carbon than before as we invest in new production technology and people. We will continue to develop lower embodied carbon materials that are durable, promotes well-being, and meet the demands of new construction methods.
Emphasis on Health and Safety
- Areas of focus in this aspect include Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in building materials, flood resistance building materials, as well as fire resistance building materials.
- Furthermore, as more and more people are becoming health conscious, there is a need for a healthy built environment. (e.g., minimal impact on the communities)
Ultimately, to achieve sustainability in construction, all stakeholders must play a vital role. Increased awareness and support programs from the government and private sector, including grants, lower interest rates, and training, are crucial for accelerating this change. To truly make a difference, all parties involved in the construction industry need to collectively strive for better.
YTL Cement is actively contributing to this transition through collaborations with CIDB and our YTL Cement Seminar Series. By prioritising sustainable construction, we can improve the quality of life for Malaysians, stimulate economic growth, and create a resilient built environment for future generations.