Local Basalt and Perlite Product May Boost Green Construction
29 March, 2012
Local Basalt and Perlite Product May Boost Green Construction

Georgia has sufficient  natural supplies of basalt and perlite to boost green construction as well as substitute import of energy-efficient construction materials by local product and take an export niche region-wide. However, till now legislative gaps and low market awareness create setbacks.  

 

Georgia uses 40 to 50% more energy for heating per square meter of floor space than EU countries with the same climatic conditions. Meantime, in spite of its ample hydro resources, Georgia is an energy-deficient country: at present

hydropower energy comprises just 20% of Georgia’s total energy demand and country almost by 100% depends on imported gas and oil. 60% of Georgia’s energy consumption comes with buildings unlike EU balance where buildings, although acknowledged as the biggest energy consumers, consume 40% of all energy consumption.

Sustainable development strategy including [among other issues] green construction and insulation of old soviet-style energy-monger buildings seems the best way-out. Insulated buildings cut down heating costs by at least 30-40% experts say while green construction norms may either do not increase construction costs or increase by 10% and the price difference will be paid back in about 5 years through saved heating costs.

According to research of Economic Prosperity Initiative (EPI) of the USAID EPI, Georgia with its basalt and perlite deposits can completely insure provision of green construction materials, substitute the infesting import and take its export niche region wide for the demand for basalt and perlite based energy-efficient construction materials increase globe over.

The main technical advantages of basalt and perlite are high chemical and thermal resistance and low flammability. Basalt/perlite attractions are ecologically clean and non-toxic, also better acoustic insulation materials compared to alternative materials like glass fiber.

Basalt fibers and materials are the cost-effective too in comparison with other types of fibers. When industrially produced, basalt fibers cost equal to or less than the cost of fiberglass. As a result, worldwide interest in products consisting of basalt fiber is increasing rapidly in the last several years with an average of 8-10%.

“As a thermal insulator, basalt-based products are more heat resistant (and therefore safer) than commonly-used fiberglass insulation. Because Georgia is currently a net importer of fiberglass, it has a unique opportunity to explore local production of basalt fiber, fiber needle mat, and wool as a construction material for insulation in commercial and residential construction,” The EPI report reads.

The locally produced basalt fiber is even triple cheaper to local construction companies for they save import-related as well as insulation costs, EPI researched. Fiber glass import equaled USD 484  thousand in 2006 and in 2009 it increased to USD 2.369 million while  including installation, construction companies can build with basalt mat (to replace fiberglass wool) at a savings of GEL 3.3 per cubic meter.

The costs for improving the thermal insulation of existing buildings using basalt and perlite products can vary and returns on investment average between 5 and 10 years. With regard to new construction, according to basalt fiber and perlite product manufacturers, construction costs can be lower than with traditionally used concrete blocks and gaj plaster.

There are two companies in Georgia that process basalt rock into basalt fiber, mat, and wool and two perlite processing companies who assure they can meet local market demand but Georgian construction companies and the general public are not aware of the energy and cost efficient benefits of basalt fiber and perlite products, EPI research says.  At the same time there are no legal obligations or incentives for construction companies to build in a more energy efficient manner.

By creating a specific department for sustainable development within the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development, the Georgian government somewhat sent a clear message on the importance, among other issues, of green building however Georgia still lacks a construction code and national obligatory standards including green construction norms. Only the law and adoption of legal energy-efficiency standards can create local market demand on locally produced basalt and perlite product, sector pundits say.

According to Paata Gogoladze, Head of BPG Ltd producing basalt energy-efficiency materials, he can easily meet local market demand standing at 200-300 thousand square meters by today but BPG Ltd exports its product to Azerbaijan mainly for construction sector is more developing there, more foreign companies operate in construction field and energy-efficiency norms are also in bigger demand. He believes only law can improve situation in Georgia.

“Buildings been constructed by foreign companies envisage energy efficiency standards but foreign investors in their business plan build constructing materials of foreign companies and they do not use local product. Local companies overlook these norms as a rule for nobody obliges them to observe them,” Gogoladze said in the interview with Georgian Journal.  “When there will be indicated in the law certain parameters that must be observed construction companies just will have to obey.”

Georgian construction companies agree that law should regulate green construction norms but some find locally produced basalt and perlite product not in line with standards.

“We tried to use basalt insulation materials but it was of so low quality that we did not take the ordered product, it was even worse than Turkish product let alone product of very reputable Swiss brands,” Temur Megrelidze, Director of Arcitech responsible for technical standards of Arci constructions, said. “As per perlite blocks they are too light and constructors do not advise to use them from seismic point of view, Georgia is in 8-9 point earthquake zone and it seems dangerous.”

According to Goga Kapanadze, Head of Georgian Developers’ Association and Director General of Axis Construction Company, his company uses only brick as it is the well-probated best energy-efficient material with proven thermal-resistance and use basalt as facing material mainly.

Karine Melikidze, Director of Sustainable Development and Policy Center, assures perlite blocks are quite safe from seismic point of view for construction is based on frame method here. She believes the real reason developers avoid perlite is the price: perlite blocks are by 1.8-fold costly compared to ordinary blocks. As per basalt rockwool it is cheaper than the imported rockwool but is thinner too and not fit for wall insulation although quite recommended for attics and ceiling.

Gogoladze assures that Georgian basalt rockwool is of good quality and quite fit for wall insulation too. What he questions is quality of largely used import.

“Georgian construction companies focus on cheap import that is toxic and no-no for house construction rather than on expensive product used in Europe in line with the energy chart requirements,” he said. “But how can one check this here with no set parameters in law?”

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