It’s a wrap!
Good morning, it is Friday, 22 December 2023, and we’re inching closer to the holidays. We look forward to spending time with family and friends, eating delicious food, and anticipating what 2024 has in store for us. This time of year prompts a self-check and assessing our progress. Let’s review Polycare’s journey in 2023 as the year comes to a close.
According to our Co-CEO Andreas Kunsmann, 2023 has been one of the best years for Polycare since he joined in 2019 — it’s been a wild, bold, and incredibly rewarding year — one for the books!
SEMBLA was launched
Our most significant achievement in 2023 was the August launch of SEMBLA. Less than a year since officially deciding to upgrade our Polyblocks, we proudly introduced our latest circular masonry system to the world. The strategic shift to geopolymers and pozzolanic materials has fuelled innovation across all aspects of our operations, bringing us closer to our goal of a regenerative construction industry. For the first time, we also have a product tailored for the German market. The system, available to project developers and building professionals, represents a great leap towards circular construction at a competitive price point.
SEMBLA’s unique selling proposition lies in its design for reuse, allowing buildings to be deconstructed and its masonry completely reused — the vision of transforming buildings into material mines, thereby creating a new circular business model, has been realised. We also offer a 70% CO₂ saving and incorporate almost 30% of secondary resources in our 100% cement-free building material. Find all SEMBLA product details on our brand-new website at www.sembla.de.
We built a new Lab
With our focus on geopolymer- and non-cementitious concrete, the needs of our lab kit and equipment have evolved. Our laboratory is now equipped, among others, for innovative testing methodologies tailored for geopolymers, developed by our team, enhancing accuracy and efficiency. Grounded in R&D, our vision for the future involves ongoing research into advanced concrete mixes and other sustainable innovations, necessitating a state-of-the-art laboratory!
We built prototypes
Polycare follows an agile, collaborative and iterative approach towards product development. Our journey involved meticulous verification of the SEMBLA masonry system’s design through the construction of prototypes, ensuring the efficiency of our masonry system. Boldly venturing into practical applications, we established a pilot production in Gehlberg, solidifying the feasibility and scalability of our approach. This transformative process also taught us the invaluable lesson that sometimes, courage is needed to entirely reinvent a product for the better. We also included our wide partner network in this learning- and development process getting very important feedback from architects, planners, civil engineers, material scientists and circular economy professionals.
We built partnerships
Throughout this year, we actively engaged in impactful partnerships and network expansion. By becoming an Impact Partner with the Cradle2Cradle NGO we solidified Polycare’s commitment to the C2C philosophy. Engaging in other networks and collaborations, such as the Circular Valley Alumni and initiatives supported by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action, we continue to deepen our understanding and contribute to circular building platforms.
As a research company with R&D at our core, we have established strong partnerships with academic institutions, such as Bauhaus Uni Weimar. This year, we additionally initiated collaboration with TU Dresden and the Construction Future Lab, concentrating on digitisation, with plans for further expansion in the coming year. We are addressing engineering questions in collaboration with representatives from TU Munich and are involved in a joint project with Metabolon and Cologne University. We are working together with the TU Bergakademie Freiberg on a research project focused on the development of technically and ecologically enhanced building materials and concretes.
In 2023, Polycare had a record year of attending events. Engaging in active discussions on decarbonising the construction industry, addressing challenges, and meeting influential partners who are navigating the field with us has been incredibly rewarding. The event list is extensive, but here is a selection:
- Alliance for resource-conserving and climate-friendly construction
Thuringian Minister for Science and Economic Affairs, Wolfgang Tiefensee, invited Polycare in May to introduce SEMBLA, even before the official launch, in the context of the meeting of the Alliance for resource-conserving and climate-friendly construction at the renowned Materials Research and Testing Institute (MFPA) in Weimar. Mrs. Klara Geywitz, Federal Minister for Housing, Urban Development, and Construction, affirmed her support for innovations and products that make a substantial contribution to climate protection and the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions in the construction sector.
- ARC Festival
In June, Co-CEO Andreas Kunsmann and Head of Material Science Dr.Gaone Koma took part in the conversations with representatives from government, academia and private sector on how we can decarbonise concrete at the ARC Festival annually hosted by Future Cleantech Architects.
- C2C and TechTour
September marked our presence at the Cradle2Cradle Congress, where our Co-CEO Andreas Kunsmann discussed the future of building materials, aligning with our SEMBLA® launch. Starting from September, our Head of Strategic Partnerships, Isabel Faller, pitched SEMBLA® at various Tech Tour events across Düsseldorf, Lausanne, and Essen.
- Designing the Future by Drees & Sommer
In October, we exhibited SEMBLA® at the Designing the Future event by Drees & Sommer. Our presence at the event allowed us to engage with industry leaders, share our contributions to sustainable construction through SEMBLA, and contribute to the collective vision of shaping the future of design and construction practices.
- Public Value Award
Just two months after the launch of SEMBLA®, Polycare earned a nomination for the 2023 Public Value Award. We were proud to stand as the only representative from the construction industry among the top seven finalists. The award recognises startups that make a tangible impact on society and contribute to the common good.
- Klimafestival by Heinze GmbH
November’s Climate Festival in Berlin served as the perfect conclusion to our year of events. It provided a fantastic platform for Polycare to showcase SEMBLA, connect with potential clients and partners, and once again, draw inspiration from the esteemed Werner Sobek — who, by the way, happens to be a big fan of SEMBLA ;-)
We are manufacturing SEMBLA in Gehlberg
We were very excited to have our new production machine delivered to Gehlberg in November. The SEMBLA blocks are now manufactured using a stationary board-finisher and demoulded while still damp. The process is tailored to the material and block design. High strengths in the material are achieved through compression and “stamping” before the blocks are stored on shelves at room temperature for curing after demoulding. Operating an approximately 3000 m2 production facility requires a maximum of 300 kW power, minimal water consumption, and completely avoids energy-intensive process heat. This not only significantly reduces CO₂ emissions in our product but also in the production process. A win-win! We are currently in the process of producing 29,000 blocks for our first project: a 3-story office building on the Areal Böhler site in Düsseldorf. The construction is set to begin in Q2 2024.
ZDF shoots in Gehlberg
It was a big deal for us when ZDF visited our HQ in Gehlberg for two days to film footage for the documentary “plan b.” SEMBLA will take center stage as a future-proof building solution, with the documentary scheduled for screening in March 2024. We’ll keep you updated.
Rolling into 2024
We’re quite pleased and can’t wait for the new year to continue with our momentum. Here’s a sneak peek on what we are focusing on in 2024:
Commitment to Circularity
We will provide a verified Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), scientifically presenting the CO₂ footprint and other ecological balances. A condensed version will be accessible as an Environmental Product Declaration (EPD). Embracing the Cradle-to-Cradle (C2C) philosophy, we are also initiating the certification process, further affirming our commitment to circular and regenerative construction practices.
We want to become climate positive. Our material and product design teams are developing products that integrate carbon sinks, such as biochar, with the aim of making the construction industry truly regenerative.
Scale up production
We are committed to industrialising our production processes, meeting the escalating interest and demand for our pioneering products and services. We are finalising the location for our 1st industrial SEMBLA production facility in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. This technology will be available for global licensing starting in the second half of 2024.
Kick-off construction for our 1st SEMBLA building project in Düsseldorf
A significant milestone will be the practical application of our innovative solutions. Areal Böhler is planning to construct a 3-storey, 1,500–2,000 square meter building, with the ground floor designated for a kindergarten and the two upper floors intended for office space. We are collaborating with Graadwies and Concular to exemplify a case study for circular construction.
Take Care and see you next year
Thank you for reading this far. We are excited to take you further on our journey on reshaping the future of construction with groundbreaking solutions. With SEMBLA we have already proven that innovation and sustainability can coexist seamlessly in the construction industry. And we are convinced that there is much more.
Looking forward, our vision includes inspiring stakeholders, intensifying collaborations with international partners, and contributing to socio-economic development in critical housing markets. Valuable lessons learned from our experiences, particularly the importance of flexibility, strict requirements engineering, and design skills, will shape our strategies as we continue to lead the construction industry towards a sustainable and intuitive future. Last but not least, a small inspiration from our team:
For now, let’s take a break, recharge, and enjoy quality time with your loved ones.