Sustainable Building Lime Applications via Circular Economy and Biomimetic Approaches


SUBLime is an innovative, collaborative and interdisciplinary project that brings together 6 academic beneficiaries and 11 industrial partners. The SUBLime network is committed to provide a combination of research and training activities which will craft the future of lime mortars/plasters in new construction and conservation of the built heritage.

Industrial European context

Lime is an enabling material derived from the calcination of the limestone in an industrial process, and it is one of the earliest industrial commodities known to man; its production and uses have grown with time, and it continues to be one of the essential building blocks of modern society. It is stressed that the EC’s objective with its Economic Growth Programme is to promote, within the context of the EU’s wider industrial policy, the competitiveness of industries related to raw materials, including minerals such as lime.

The Report for ‘Competitiveness of the European Cement and Lime Sectors’, issued in February 2018, states that in 2015 (latest available Eurostat), the lime and plaster industries represented more than 20 Mt/y and estimated €4.2 billion turnovers with €1.4 billion value added, with approximately 15.000 direct employees, which further add to 30.000 indirect employees. The estimated business of lime/limestone industry is about 75% burnt material and 25% mineral business, presenting a total of 3 billion € turnover of lime.

Lime is fundamental in many industrial value chains as the iron and steel production industries, in environmental applications i.e. the flue gas cleaning, water and sludge treatment, soil improvement and protection, civil engineering, construction materials, agriculture, and in food and feed additives. Approximately, 18% of the entire market is dedicated to construction materials and civil engineering. 

Lime customer markets

Lime mortars have kept extensive applicability in the European and worldwide scenario of masonry construction, both as joint material in between masonry units (bricks and blocks) and as a plastering material. When compared with cement, the benefits of using lime-based mortars include: (a) Low water penetration; (b) Increased breathability and moisture control; (c) Increased bond strength and reduced cracking (long-term “plastic” behaviour and crack healing due to dissolution-precipitation of CaCO3); (d) Lower efflorescence; (e) Easier and cheaper building maintenance; (f) Workability and water retention resulting in optimum material use and productivity; (g) Reduced carbon footprint. In addition, lime-based mortars are fully compatible with ancient masonry, a key issue in conservation of heritage buildings and they fulfil the criteria for sustainable construction.

The consortium of SUBLime, comprising a relevant combination of experienced stakeholders in both academia and industry, has identified several currently relevant needs for further development in the scope of lime in construction, which acted as main drivers for the objectives of this project.