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Balancing Cost, Performance, and Sustainability in Construction: Expert Insights

There’s always been a need to balance cost vs performance, with manufacturers on the lookout for the nirvana of superior performance and reduced costs. Today, however, that balance is even more complex, with demand increasing for products and ingredients that are sustainable, environmentally friendly, and build towards a truly circular economy.

In this guide, we’ll look at:

  • Why cost, performance and sustainability are all key considerations in construction chemicals
  • How to get the technical support you need to achieve a balance of factors
  • What to consider when choosing a technical support partner for your business

It’s time for change

The construction chemical industry has evolved over the decades, with new ingredients, processes and technologies always becoming available to help companies drive and grow their businesses. Yet many manufacturers aren’t making the most of these opportunities, either through inertia (if your products are reliable and successful, why make changes?) or because of the risk to product performance – which could affect both sales and reputation.

But today’s market conditions are making change inevitable:

  • Cost inflation. The cost of doing business generally has risen, but in manufacturing the cost of raw materials globally has risen dramatically – on average +4.1% in 2023, and a total of +25% since 2020. And with global supply chains, there’s also significant cost related to shipping from abroad.
  • Changing customer expectations. New market opportunities, plus bespoke customer requests, are driving demand for new product formulations as competition increases. Customers are often willing to pay for new features, if you can deliver them.
  • Rise of sustainability. Legislation and customer expectations around environmental and social sustainability are driving the need to improve the environmental impact of cement products, for example by reducing the use of raw materials with high embodied carbon, such as lithium carbonate, and the move towards low OPC or OPC-free binder systems.

It might feel risky to make changes to product formulations or manufacturing operations. But if you can get the right balance of cost, performance and sustainability, you’ll be in the best position to create a clear business advantage in a difficult marketplace.

For example:

  • Moving to more locally manufactured raw materials can potentially reduce the cost and environmental impact of procuring and shipping raw materials from the rest of the world, for example lithium carbonate.
  • The use of selected  additives can improve the performance of cement-based products, such as control over setting times, rheology, flow properties etc., enabling you to better meet your customers’ needs, and perform better in your marketplace.
  • Choosing more sustainable or circular alternatives to core ingredients can enhance the sustainability profile of end products.

Get the technical support you need

The biggest success factor for product change is your technical team. With time and specialist resources, you can fully investigate your challenges, research the industry for solutions – or create your own – and thoroughly test new products and formulations before formally adopting them. You have full control over your priorities, making it easier to achieve the balance your business needs across cost, performance and sustainability.

However, these resources – people and technology – can be expensive to acquire and maintain. It’s why organisations that don’t have their own technical support – or whose teams have limited capacity – choose to work with a technical partner like Cemkem.

Finding the right partner

If you don’t have your own technical team, it’s important to choose the right organisation to partner with. Here are five of the things you should look for.

1.      Good scientists are talented and curious, but also good communicators

The best technical experts are inquisitive and want to know how things work. We’ve chosen people who are always keen to try new things and push the boundaries of current technology – it’s how we discover those disruptive innovations. We also understand the value of communication skills: results and outcomes have to be accessible to anyone in the business.

2.      A technical team needs a variety of skills and experience

You need your technical team to have skills that complement each other and cover a wide range of technologies. We have experts in different types of chemistry and with specific sector experience, including construction. But individual team members also have unique skills, for example in test method development and analysis – so we can devise testing for any customer request, and report on it.

3.      Company culture drives technical results

A technical team can only deliver innovation if innovation is a core company value. As well as employing the right people, we also create an environment designed for success. We provide leading-edge testing tools, and support requests for new equipment. We positively encourage testing and trying – and this relentless attitude has helped to deliver some of our best innovations.

4.      Look at other sectors for inspiration

There’s continual innovation in the construction and concrete sectors – but you’ll find even more if you look beyond these. What if a raw ingredient used in an industrial cleaner might also deliver a new feature to a cement-based tile adhesive? It’s just one reason why we recruit our technical experts from a variety of sectors

5.      Supporting sustainability

Environmental impact can’t be an afterthought – it needs to be at the heart of everything you do. We want to produce products that are as sustainable as possible, for ourselves and our customers, and this is a key consideration across all of our projects. We’re also extending this to include our suppliers, for greater sustainability across our ecosystem.

“You might have heard the saying ‘Quality means doing it right when no-one is looking.’ In Cemkem, we feel this way about innovation, too. We don’t just work on today’s customers’ projects – we’re always experimenting with leading-edge technologies to create new and improved products and solutions. It’s another reason why customers choose to work with us.”

Find out more

At Cemkem, our Technical Support Service has worked with businesses across the construction and industrial chemical industries for over 15 years[KM4] . We’re a team of highly skilled, experienced and curious scientists and technologists who work side-by-side with in-house teams to solve all your cost, performance and sustainability challenges.

For more information, contact Cemkem on +44 (0) 161 762 0044 or at