The buildings sector in Europe is responsible for 36% of European CO2 emissions. Belgium has 5 million buildings that emit CO₂ to provide for their own heating and cooling.
In its 2050 climate strategy, the Flemish government is aiming to reduce the CO2 emissions of the Flemish building stock to 2.3 Mt CO2eq. by 2050. For the existing non-residential building stock, Flanders is aiming for a carbon-neutral building fleet for heating, sanitary hot water, cooling and lighting by 2050.
The greatest profit in the buildings sector is to be found in making buildings more energy-efficient. In order to achieve this, we will need to intervene in all building properties: the building shell, the compactness and the technologies installed.
The coatings from Liquisol contribute to better energy performance of the building shell. We spoke to General Manager Tom Huysmans.
How do Liquisol's coatings improve the energy performance of a building shell?
“Liquisol develops and manufactures coatings that keep a building cooler in warm temperatures. Our coatings make a building energy-efficient and save energy by reflecting infra-red sunrays. This means the building shell absorbs less heat, so less electrical cooling is needed inside. At present, we can make any part of the building – windows, walls, roofs – reflect the sun. So we're really targeting this niche market in sun-reflective coatings.”
Have you made any calculations for how much your coatings can save in energy consumption?
“We've developed some open-source software in collaboration with the KU Leuven for calculating the investment yield after applying our coatings. With this Return-on-Investment or ROI software, you can calculate the impact of a white, cool roof on the indoor climate in advance. That's how you'll know whether you can make a difference to your energy efficiency and whether you can reduce your CO2 footprint. The tool is very easy to use. For large, often industrial companies that are considering using our coatings for their skylights, it's important to know how much they could save in costs and how much that could save them in CO2 emissions.”
Do your coatings have any other advantages?
“Absolutely – improved energy performance doesn't just mean fewer CO2 emissions, it can also mean lower energy bills given that you need to use your airco less, or you might not need one at all. In addition, they make things more comfortable for employees or customers. We'd like to pay more attention to that, to those positive effects of better energy performance for the people in the building.”
How are your coatings different from others?
“Our coatings are high-tech paints with special pigments that reflect sunrays. Quality is hugely important to us there. That's why we manufacture all our coatings in Belgium. We also have them tested by independent European institutes, by the way, such as Fraunhofer or Belgian knowledge centres like the VKC in Kortrijk, for example.”
Can you tell us anything more about how Liquisol came about?
“In 2008, I was looking for a solution to make plexiglass skylights reflect the sun for a different activity – namely, adhesion of sun-reflective foils to glass. However, I couldn't find any solution or coating that did that. Liquisol came about from that need.
I went out in search myself and found a pigment supplier at a trade show in Germany. We then developed a coating that could be applied to plexiglass and polycarbonate ourselves. So that's how Liquisol came about.
I remember we were at Batibouw with two products at the time. We've grown hugely since then. And 2020 – despite corona – was a great year for us. That was partly down to the nice weather, as early as the spring. Many employees at companies were asking for a cooler, more comfortable working environment. That, in combination with the hot topic of climate change and energy savings, contributed to our success.”
Which countries do you work in?
“We're based at the port of Antwerp, from where we distribute our coatings to our European and American customers. Europe – mainly our neighbouring countries and Italy – remains our largest market.
But more recently, we've been exporting our coatings to the Middle East too. We see a great many opportunities for growth there as well. That's down to the climate on the one hand, while energy prices have since been getting more expensive there too. That means building managers and project developers over there are looking for solutions for cooling their buildings in a more energy-friendly way.”
How do you distribute your products?
“On the one hand, we target facility and building managers, who decide whether or not our coatings will be applied to their buildings. We also collaborate with agents abroad.
What's unique is that we supply our coatings directly to the consumers: painters, glass foil fitters, sun blind specialists, general maintenance contractors, roofers, etc. We can do that through special packaging. Our packaging is a bit like the refill packaging for e.g. shower gel, known as ‘pouch bags’. We use a minimal quantity of plastic – up to 60% less – to make the volume as compact as possible. This packaging, which is lighter and more compact – but still sturdy – allows us to organise the transport more sustainably and efficiently.”
Have you been a Cleantech Flanders partner for long?
“As a businessman, I've known Cleantech Flanders for years. In 2018, we were at the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi together too.”
What new developments are in the pipeline?
“We're currently in the final testing phase of our H2Oproof. H2Oproof is our elastomer roof coating based on acrylate polyurethane that can replace EPDM or roofing. This reinforced liquid waterproofing can be easily applied to concrete, asphalt, tar roofs, metal sheets, etc., with roller or airless at a thickness of 2mm. The anticipated lifespan is 15 years. With an annual inspection, the lifespan can be doubled. The white roof coating with an SRI (solar reflective index) of >80% results in huge energy savings in aircon usage. Besides that, there are our ‘more classical’ 2White roof coatings, which can solve the problem of the heat island effect. Those are mainly popular in the US. Our ambition is to become the global standard for energy-saving coatings. That is our ultimate goal!”