Sustainable Products and sustainable construction

Sustainable products and solutions

Climate-friendly construction calls for climate-friendly building materials. We work intensively to develop and produce innovative, environmentally and socially responsible products that meet the highest quality standards over their entire life cycle. Through resource efficiency, co-processing of waste materials, and concrete recycling, we want to contribute to the successful growth of a circular economy.

We aim to generate half of our Group revenue from sustainable products by 2030. In doing so, we use four criteria as a basis, at least one of which must be fulfilled for classification as a “sustainable product.”

Strong local, sustainable, and low-carbon product portfolio

Sustainable building materials with the smallest possible carbon footprint are playing an increasingly important role for us and our customers. Our research and product innovation labs have developed various alternatives to traditional cement with reduced environmental impacts, including cements and concretes with improved carbon footprints as well as building materials with characteristics that support the use of less material and enable society to implement climate-friendly solutions.

Concretes with improved carbon footprints

By using substances such as blast furnace slag and fly ash as secondary cementitious materials  (SCMs), we can reduce the CO₂ intensity of concrete. To improve the carbon footprint of our products based on Portland cement, we use what are known as additives. These are alternative materials that are produced during the manufacture of pig iron or when electricity is generated from coal in steel mills and coal-fired power plants and serve as source materials for composite cements, in which Portland cement clinker is partially replaced. In addition, we have been working for several years on the development of alternative binders with the aim of reducing or even completely replacing conventional clinker.

Concrete containing recycled aggregates

We offer concrete solutions containing varying proportions of recycled aggregates in all Group  Countries. While sustainable and environmentally friendly concrete products incorporating up to 100 % recycled aggregates and low-carbon cement are available in several countries, in others, standards and norms, approvals, or political regulation must be put in place before such products can be  introduced.

Innovative solutions with less material

Other innovative solutions reduce the amount of material needed, such as through precision  engineering and the targeted use of material, or through the safe and cost-efficient renovation of infrastructure that has reached the end of its service life. Ultra high-performance concretes (UHPCs), for example, are characterised by very high compressive strengths. That means they can be used to build concrete structures that are remarkable for their economical use of materials as well as their reduced weight and slim construction. The use of UHPC in object renovation also avoids CO₂ that
would otherwise be generated when the structure is demolished and rebuilt. 3D concrete printing is a particularly resource-efficient way of using materials: because the material is very precisely put only where it is actually needed, less concrete is needed overall for this type of construction.

Solutions supporting the energy transition and for clean air

Besides reducing our carbon footprint by using alternative raw materials and clinker technologies, our research laboratories are also working on products intended to contribute to a cleaner urban environment and support the energy transition. Over its life cycle, a building’s energy and carbon footprint can also be significantly improved by implementing modern climate concepts using concrete. That is because concrete’s ability to absorb and store heat means it can contribute to the passive heating or cooling of buildings.

Criteria for sustainable products


  • Cement: 30% less CO₂ vs. CEM I in 20201)
  • Concrete: 30% less CO₂ vs. CEM-I-based concrete in 20201)

1) -30% vs. GCCA CEM1 in 2019/20, translates to < 530 kg CO₂/t cementitious and < 5.5 kg CO2/m³/MPa

Circular products

  • Reuse materials 30% recycled content
  • Reduce materials 30% less material

EcoPlus – UK

60% CO₂ reduction

In the products of our subsidiary Hanson UK’s EcoPlus range, up to 70% of Portland Cement in the concrete mix are replaced with Hanson Regen (Ground Granulated Blast furnace Slag or ‘GGBS’). This provides a product that has a much lower level of embodied CO2 than if ordinary cement was used, is more durable and aesthetically lighter in colour. 

Nor Lavkarbon – Norway

20% CO₂ reduction

Norcem’s Nor Lavkarbon uses fly ash as secondary cementitious material to produce low-carbon concrete.

Ecocrete – Netherlands

70% CO₂ reduction

Ecocrete is a type of concrete that contains shares of up to 100% recycled  aggregates, thus avoiding the use of primary raw materials and contributing to the circular economy. Due to the CEM III/B that is used in its production, it comes with a significantly lower CO2 footprint than comparable products based on OPC. More information (in Dutch).

Green Concrete – Australia

45% CO₂ reduction

Our subsidiary Hanson Australia offers its customers specially-formulated concrete mixes for sustainable projects in the Green Concrete range. They contain a reduced, specified percentage of cement which is then substituted with residuals and by-products including slag. 

i.power RIGENERA – Italy

With i.power RIGENERA, our Italian subsidiary Italcementi has launched an Ultra-High Performance Fibre Reinforced Concrete which allows the renewal of existing structures with a minimum of cost and effort. Concrete jacketing solution for structural retrofitting ith this material, old or damaged bridges can be reinforced to improve their structures and even protect them against earthquakes.

i.Tech 3D – Italy

i.Tech3D: The high-tech material 3D was developed by the Heidelberg Materials subsidiary Italcementi specifically for 3D printing and is suitable for versatile use with various types of 3D printers. 3D has recently been used as material for Germany’s first 3D printed residential building.

TioCem – Germany

TioCem® is a photocatalytic cement that decomposes nitrogen oxide (NOx) in the surrounding air by means of UV light, similar to the photosynthesis of plants, thereby making an active contribution to environmental protection. Using TioCem to reduce NOx in high traffic areas, for example in concrete roofing tiles, paving stones, noise barriers and other products, can considerably improve air quality in our cities.

PowerCrete – Germany

PowerCrete® is a high-performance heat-conducting concrete, used as a bedding and backfilling material for underground high-voltage cabling. Its special properties result in low heat transmission resistance. Because of the low thermal resistance, the heat being generated is dissipated effectively, the conductor temperature is reduced efficiently, and as a result the power capability of the cable route is increased.

Sustainable construction

Sustainable construction materials with a small CO₂ footprint are playing an ever more important role for us and our customers. We use special additives in order to improve the CO₂ balance of the products based on our Portland cement.

These alternative materials, which are waste products from steel mills and coal-fired power plants, partially replace Portland cement clinker in the production of "composite cement". We have also been working for several years to develop alternative binding materials that almost completely eliminate the need for conventional clinker.

The use of by-products from other industries for the production of clinker and cement or the recycling of concrete from demolished structures enable us to manufacture concrete more sustainably.

Dr. Christian Artelt, Sustainable Construction Manager

Research and Development

Of course, at HeidelbergCement we are also working to develop new products. One of the areas of focus of the activities at our central research laboratory in Leimen, Germany, and our product innovation laboratory in Bergamo, Italy, was the development of products with a better carbon footprint and improved performance in terms of the energy efficiency of buildings. We have developed various alternatives to traditional cement with reduced environmental impact, such as Ternocem®, an innovative belite calciumsulfoaluminate ternesite cement, or composite cements with a significantly lower clinker content.

Alternative raw materials

Many of these alternative products come from waste materials produced in other sectors of industry. In this way, we make an active contribution to improving the circular economy. Several products have been field-tested in pilot applications and a few of these have already been marketed. We are also continuing to work on products that support the energy transition, such as Powercrete®, a special concrete with exceptionally high thermal conductivity, which allows high-voltage cables to be laid underground.

Our commitment to the circular economy is also reflected in our involvement in the Dutch concrete recycling company Rewinn B. V., Amsterdam, which we established together with our local partner Theo Pouw BV, Utrecht, Netherlands. We are in a position to produce up to 250,000 tonnes of aggregates from recycled concrete per year. These are already used in numerous applications, such as the production of fresh concrete.

Commitment to sustainable construction

As a founding member of the Concrete Sustainability Council, we played a leading role in the development of a certification system for sustainably produced concrete, which was introduced at the beginning of 2017 and has been continuously developed since then. Additional concrete plants in Poland, Italy, and Turkey were certified in 2019. With the certification of concrete, taking into account social, economic, and environmental aspects along the value chain, we expect to see greater acceptance of the product and the entire industry.

We have also strengthened our engagement in various national Green Building Councils, the European Construction Technology Platform, and other associations in order to support and accelerate developments in the area of sustainable construction and market transformation. From 2020, we will also be actively involved as an official partner in the Europe Regional Network (ERN) of the World Green Building Council

Energy efficiency of buildings

Besides reducing our carbon footprint through the use of alternative raw materials and clinker technologies, our research laboratories are also working on products intended to improve the energy efficiency of buildings and to support the energy transition. One example of a product designed to support the energy transition is Powercrete®, a special concrete with outstandingly high thermal conductivity, which allows high-voltage cables to be laid underground.

Concrete is generally characterised by good thermal insulation properties and can, where used correctly, contribute towards significant energy savings in a building over the material’s service life. Thanks to innovative formulations, concrete can also be used to store or conduct heat. Our research center in Leimen, which was built in 2016, uses concrete-core activation to provide energy-efficient air conditioning for offices and laboratories. The new headquarters in Heidelberg, which has been occupied from mid-2020, have been constructed in accordance with the platinum standard of the German Sustainable Building Council (DGNB), and the energy demand of the building will be exceptionally low.