2015 ended rather gently for the industry, as months of heightened activity started to settle down. Despite a relatively slow month, there were still a handful of key developments throughout December.

Speciality chemicals manufacturer Sika made the news after opening a brand new state-of-the-art mortar products plant in Philadelphia. The new plant is an extension of Sika’s existing concrete admixture plant, and will allow the firm to tap into the sizeable market potential in interior finishing in cities along the eastern coast.

Christoph Ganz, Regional Manager for North America also confirmed that Sika are planning to open another plant in North America, and one in Canada. With Sika capitalising on the increase in commercial and infrastructure projects taking place in the US, there will be a need to increase supply chain, sales force and marketing personnel, as confirmed by Ganz.

HeidelbergCement also made the news, after making the decision to modernise its Burglengenfeld cement plant in Germany. IKN won the contract for the engineering, supply and installation of a complete 4000t/day line. The upgraded plant will feature state-of-the-art technology to ensure compliance with the targeted production level and future emission limits.

Lightweight metals firm Alcoa also ended the year well, announcing a $2.5bn deal to provide fastenings and titanium seat tracks with Boeing. The deal follows on from a 2014 deal for aluminium sheets and plates, valued at $1bn. Alcoa CEO Klaus Kleinfield noted that the deals are the latest proof that Alcoa’s strategy is working.

There was interesting news out of Japan, as steelmakers commit to testing a pilot furnace technique aimed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Reducing carbon emissions is crucial for Japan, whose steel industry relies on carbon-emitting coking coal to make their products. Cutting these emissions will be pivotal if Japan is to meet its 26% target reduction rate.

Seiji Nomura, General Manager at process research laboratories at Nippon Steel stated that Japan needs a technological revolution, different from the way the industry is currently producing emissions. The scheme is situated on a Nippon Steel site, but remains an industry-wide project, backed by $203m of Japanese public funds.

It was also announced that CDC Group, the UK’s development finance institution, have signed a memorandum of understanding with LafargeHolcim to create a company to produce and promote low-carbon construction for developing countries.

The new company will help to scale up production of Durabric, the earth-cement brick launched by LafargeHolcim in Malawi back in 2013. Durabric has been praised for it’s simplicity and reliability, not to mention being a more environmentally-friendly material than burnt bricks, which require wood-fired kilns for production.

The new company will have an exciting impact on how developing countries utilise environmentally-friendly building materials, and all of us here at Chad Harrison International are looking forward to seeing how this develops in 2016.

For more updates on the building materials, cement, aggregate, and industrial minerals industries you can follow Chad Harrison on LinkedIn.