The 29th Eurogypsum Congress of Eurogypsum, the European Gypsum Association, took place at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Kraków, Poland on 10 – 11 May 2012. The event, held under the title, ‘Gypsum is at the core of a sustainable and resource-efficient built environment,’ was attended by around 85 delegates from Europe and further afield. The Congress heard a variety of presentations from the European Commission, architects, academics and other businesses in the gypsum industry and related areas.
Day 1 – 10 May 2012
Delegates were welcomed to Kraków on the evening of 10 May 2012 at a cocktail reception hosted by Polski Gips, the Polish Gypsum Association. Held in the historic setting of the Ciołek Palace in central Kraków, the assembled guests were formally welcomed by the President of Polski Gips Maciej Dyja. After welcoming guests, Dyja thanked Eurogypsum for arranging the Congress in Poland, the first time that it has held the event in central Europe.
Following Dyja, delegates heard from David Drabik, representing the office of Andrzej Adamczyk, Vice-President of the Parliamentary Committee on Infrastructure. Messages to the organisers and participants of the Congress were read from Olgierada Dziekoński of the Presidential Chancellery, Janusz Zbik of the Ministry of Transport, Construction and Maritime Economy and Robert Dziwińskiego, Chief Inspector of Building Control. Each apologised for his absence and emphasised the important role of plaster products in Poland.
A final introductory presentation was given by Borysław Czarakcziew, the President of the Regional Architects Chamber of Commerce. His comprehensive multimedia overview of the history of Poland and Kraków was followed by an interesting presentation of recent and ongoing construction projects in Kraków and the surrounding area.
Czarakcziew highlighted that, while gypsum products are not suitable in some cases, the Polish market offers a great and growing opportunity for the development of the gypsum industry due to the relatively high number and variety of projects. He highlighted the recent construction of an arts centre in the old town, various sporting areas, homes, commercial buildings and even a museum underneath the 1000-year old central square.
Following the presentations there was ample opportunity for discussion and for delegates to meet new contacts and reconnect with existing ones.
Day 2 – 11 May 2012
The Eurogypsum Congress presentations were held at the Radisson Blu Hotel on 11 May 2012. To begin, delegates were welcomed by Bernard Lekien, President of Eurogypsum. After welcoming delegates to the start of the technical proceedings he said that the day would bring ‘outstanding’ speakers and that the presentations would cover the industry from raw materials to manufacturing, installation and the promotion of flue-gas desulphurisation gypsum.
Lekien also said that he hoped for a thoughtful exchange of views between delegates and the presenters and highlighted the theme of sustainability running through the conference. Following Lekien, Polski Gips’ President Maciej Dyja reiterated the messages from Olgierada Dziekoński and Janusz Zbik, who were unable to attend the Congress due to pre-existing work commitments.
The first feature presentation was by Maria Spiliopoulou Kaparia, the deputy head of the ‘Metals, Minerals and Raw Materials’ unit of the European Commission (EC) Directorate-General for Enterprise and Industry (DGEI). She explained the general policies that the unit is developing for a range of raw materials, including gypsum, noting that cooperation between 27 Member States on such interests is not always a simple affair.
Spiliopoulou Kaparia described a three pillar approach to promoting the extraction of metals, minerals and raw materials in the EU, namely: 1) Ways to obtain materials fairly from regions outside of the EU; 2) Ways to improve conditions for mining such materials within the EU and; 3) Ways to improve recycling and sustainability of raw materials in the EU.
In the first pillar she highlighted the unit’s reports on ‘critical’ raw materials and partnerships between the EU to secure resources in a fair and transparent manner. In the second pillar, she highlighted that the EU has a large amount of raw materials but that it often has factors that prevent their extraction. Public tolerance of mining is fairly low and environmental regulations impose additional costs on the sector compared to other regions of the world.
Spiliopoulou Kaparia described the unit’s analysis of the Member States’ mineral policies, with the aim of reducing the amount of bureaucracy needed to open and close sites by creating a ‘one-stop-shop’ to stop conflicting orders from different ministries.
She said that before 2008 no Member State had been able to present a fully joined-up minerals policy. Since 2008, the unit has received full minerals policies from Finland, Germany, France, the Netherlands and Greece. Such policies, she said, would help to create favourable investment environments for the extractive industries in the EU.
With regards to the third pillar, Spiliopoulou Kaparia said that the DGEI was working closely with the Directorate-General for Environment (DGE) to look at ways of not simply recycling more, but also recycling ‘better.’ She said that DGEI was using gypsum as a good example that other industries can aspire to.
As part of its focus on recycling, Maria Spiliopoulou Kaparia covered elements of waste-shipment regulations and how the directorate was making attempts to reduce illegal wastes leaving the EU. She highlighted the Trans-Atlantic Economic Commission looking into recycling and resource-efficiency as a positive development, the sort of which the DGIE is looking to replicate with other regions. Maria Spiliopoulou Kaparia also highlighted the need to give rise to favourable conditions for the refurbishing of existing structures as part of a focus on recycling.
Second to the podium was Dominique Bailly, the Mayor of Vaujours in France. His presentation, entitled ‘Raw materials are the future for green growth: benefits of improved extraction techniques for the local community,’ gave a comprehensive review of gypsum mining near his community, located near to Paris. Speaking about a new Placoplâtre plant, the Mayor expressed his deep satisfaction with the site and the steps that the company had taken to minimise effects on the local community.
These included careful road layouts to minimise pollution and noise from trucks visiting the site, locating stacks near the centre of the production site (ie: away from nearby populations), locating the plant’s port downstream from nearby towns and other steps to minimise dust and CO2emissions. Bailly commented on the high transparency of the operation and employment benefits to the local community.
Continuing the theme of raw material extraction Gregory Mahy from the University of Gembloux in Belgium provided case-studies in which quarries had not just been successfully returned to nature, but returned in such a state that provided higher biodiversity than before any intervention. Mahy described that although 10% of the world’s surface benefits from some environmental protection, the value of more localised biodiversity has been neglected until recently. Citing the case of copper mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mahy explained the methods by which conservationists had learnt about maintaining local biodiversity for use in future quarry renovations.
Mahy echoed Maria Spiliopoulou Kaparia, commenting that during his research he had been pleasantly surprised by the efforts of the gypsum industry to commit to biodiversity and sustainability.
The final speaker in the morning session was Hans-Joachim Feuerborn, Secretary General of the European Coal Combustion Products Association (ECOBA). He started by asking whether his presentation title ‘FGD Gypsum – A byproduct in line with a resource-efficient Europe,’ was a question or a statement. After providing an introduction to FGD gypsum, he announced that the EU15 countries used 10.6Mt of FGD gypsum in 2010, the last year for which full figures are currently available. Around 62% of the FGD was used in gypsum wallboard. He highlighted that Poland, with the highest proportion of coal use for its fuel in Europe, had a high potential for using FGD in its gypsum wallboard.
Feuerborn also discussed the current issues surrounding the status of FGD gypsum, asking the floor whether it was a waste, a product, a byproduct or former waste. He said that any ‘label’ given to FGD, fly-ash, bottom-ash and other industrial products would have a strong effect on how they are received by the public and commercial markets.
Feuerborn also highlighted the current problems of reducing emissions from coal-fired power stations, emphasising the perceived advantages and disadvantages of carbon capture and storage.
Pressed on when reliable data for coal combustion products would be known for the EU27, Feuerborn said that those countries in the EU27 but not in the EU15 produce approximately 7Mt/yr of FGD. He added that reliable official figures for these countries were unlikely to be available for some time.
Following a break for lunch, the Congress reconvened for the afternoon session. The session began with a presentation from Georg Rötzel, who described innovative ways that the architectural firm Schmidhuber & Partner had used gypsum wallboard. Presenting in the absence of Lennart Wiechell, he gave details of Schmidhuber’s large temporary structures for exhibitions that it has created for its clients. Rötzel gave details of how the company was experimenting with wetting and bending gypsum wallboard into complex shapes that were still ‘buildable and affordable.’
Wolfgang Zillig from the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany followed Rötzel in place of Klaus Sedlbauer, who had been scheduled to present. Zillig gave the audience an overview of the rising pressures that are leading to increased levels of interior insulation systems, an area closely aligned with gypsum wallboard installation in the German market.
In light of increasingly tough energy consumption targets, Zillig presented interior insulation as a good way to reduce total energy needs and CO2. He gave an overview of the problems like mould growth, frost damage and capillary damage, which can occur if buildings are insulated too well and summarised the difficult balance between thermal comfort, air quality, cost and environmental concerns in the German renovation market. He outlined the Institute’s new ‘Kapi’ test for testing capillary action damage in insulating materials by nuclear magnetic resonance.
The final presenter was Mike Falconer Hall from the UK’s Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP). He described the work of WRAP, which is committed to a ‘world without waste’ and works with businesses, local enterprises and communities to reduce wastes. Focusing on wallboard, Falconer Hall described the work of the Plasterboard Sustainability Partnership (PSP) in the UK, which is working towards reducing waste before, during and after construction.
Like Spiliopoulou Kaparia and Mahy, who had presented in the morning session, Falconer Hall described the reasons for focusing on wallboard. He noted that it is a widely used material, about the use of which there is a large amount of data. He noted that the industry had taken steps to improve sustainability without prompting by regulation and that the supply chain had already made commitments to recycling. He noted that these reasons meant that wallboard could be used as an example of best practice.
Falconer Hall said that the PSP was working towards increased sustainability by continuous improvement and analysis of wallboard recycling data. He praised the UK gypsum industry, which he said now financed the PSP in a ‘by industry, for industry’ approach.
Following the final speaker, Eurogypsum President Bernard Lekien provided concluding remarks and drew on the positive approach to sustainability in the gypsum industry that had been mentioned by all of the presenters. He welcomed the work of Spiliopoulou Kaparia’s department to simplify the regulation surrounding gypsum mining in the EU and highlighted the lessons that the gypsum industry can learn from the experiences of the community represented by Mayor Bailly. Lekien echoed Mahy, who had said that quarries can be positive contributors to biodiversity in modern ecosystems and echoed Feuerborn’s call for clarification regarding the ‘labelling’ of FGD gypsum and other coal combusion products for the sake of certainty in the European gypsum industry.
Lekien also agreed that novel gypsum structures should be ‘buildable and affordable’ and said that air-tightness is an issue, requiring research and development, the implementation of new technologies and a real-world approach. He said that the WRAP/PSP approach is ‘exactly what we want to do,’ and highlighted the endless recycleablity of gypsum materials.
Gala Dinner – Wieliczka salt mine
On the evening of 11 May 2012 the official programme of the 29th Eurogypsum Congress concluded at the world-famous Wieliczka salt mine, located a short distance from central Kraków. Delegates were taken on a tour of the mine, which closed in 1996, and descended to a depth of 125m. Highlights included a visit to the the Church of St. Kinga (one of over 40 in the mine), underground salt lakes and the Gala Dinner itself, held deep within the mine.
At the Dinner, the outgoing Eurogypsum President Bernard Lekien took the opportunity to thank Eurogypsum Secretary Christine Marlot and assistant Martine Capite for their assistance during his time as President. He officially handed over to his successor, Knauf Italy’s Maurizio Casalini. Casalini thanked Lekien for his Presidency, thanked delegates for a successful Congress and stated his commitment to promoting the role of gypsum across Europe during his two year term as President.