Contributing to the goal of carbon neutrality in the citiesArticles
Architects and designers increasingly seek eco-efficient materials and solutions that ensure quality and comfort without harming the environment. Combining ecology and performance, cork is one such product and has tremendous potential in the fields of urban construction, rehabilitation and outdoor areas.
All over the world, a growing proportion of people lives in cities. Big or small, old or new, cities are becoming our natural environment. According to the United Nations, about 55% of the world’s population currently lives in urban areas, and it is estimated that this percentage will rise to 68% over the coming decades*. By 2050, two thirds of the world population will live in urban areas.
Cork and the green cities of tomorrow
In this context, it is imperative to increase the quality of life in urban centers, both in terms of comfort and in terms of environmentally friendly solutions in new buildings, rehabilitations, and outdoor spaces.
Cork, as a renewable natural raw material that plays an important role in the reduction of greenhouse gases, is gaining momentum in the area of sustainable and eco-efficient construction, mainly due to its thermal insulation properties and acoustic and vibration control capacities.
Everything begins in Nature
Cork is a natural, 100% biodegradable, recyclable, renewable raw material obtained from the cork oak tree (Quercus Suber L.). This oak species whose bark (cork) regenerates itself is mainly found in Southern Mediterranean countries and North Africa, and has an average lifetime of 200 years. Portugal is the leading cork-producing country, responsible for over 50% of total European cork production.
By promoting the cyclical extraction of cork, without damaging the cork oak trees, Corticeira Amorim's activity ensures the viability of the cork oak forest, which is a natural and renewable resource, offering numerous environmental, economic and social benefits. Studies indicate that for each ton of cork produced, the cork oak forest can sequester up to 73 tons of CO2**, and thus helps to reduce the Global Warming potential and contributing to the goal of carbon neutrality in the cities.
Framed with the commitment to sustainability and the reduction of the ecological footprint, Corticeira Amorim's mission is to add value to cork, in a competitive, differentiated and innovative way, in perfect harmony with nature. The company is thus aligned with 12 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. This strategy is based on three scopes: environmental, social and economic. In environmental terms, the company is focused on preserving the cork oak forest and ecosystem services; reducing the environmental impact; applying circular economy; and developing green products.
Cork’s Natural Power
Cork consists of a honeycomb structure, including thousands of microscopic cells, filled by an air-like gas and coated primarily by suberin and lignin. Suberin is the element that makes cork impermeable to liquids and gases, allowing it to age without deteriorating.
In addition to its insulation capacity, cork has a series of other characteristics that enable a broad range of applications in building construction.
It is lightweight, with high flexibility and compressibility, resistant to moisture, friction and abrasion, and has thermal, acoustic and vibration insulation capacities.
Safer and more accessible playgrounds – Corkeen by Amorim
Given its positive contribution to outdoor and leisure areas, urban parks and playgrounds, cork can be used as a safe, stable and sustainable surface, due to its main characteristics: lower surface temperature, impact absorption, odorless, drainage capacity, lightweight, fire-retardant and hypoallergenic.
Additionally, its resilience creates a cushioning effect, which makes floors extremely comfortable for walking and standing. But, more than comfortable, playgrounds made by cork need to be safe.
The playground industry in Europe has defined children's safety as one of the top priorities. To reduce the risk of severe injuries, EN1176 & EN1177 has been introduced to the market. EN1176 is the European Standard for play equipment and surfacing. It regulates criterias within the playing area. One of these requirements is the need for safety surfacing below playground equipment.
That’s why Corkeen is the revolutionary surfacing system for playgrounds. As a safe and stable surface, it complies with EN1176 and EN1177. Corkeen system has been tested by Labosport in France according to EN1177 and has passed those tests, receiving certificates on system thicknesses from 40-135 mm.
The use of playgrounds encourages the construction of social and intellectual skills through increased interaction. It enhances group dynamics among children, in a learning and recreational environment, including, in many cases, the involvement of the family. These surfaces are typically installed in schools or outdoor parks and must incorporate the natural world around them, fitting into their environment.
The green space is vital for the activity and elements such as water or cork provide children with a dynamic environment, which gives the space characteristics that they see, sound and feel as interesting. Corkeen responds to this need, combining safety and sustainability, satisfying the most demanding requirements of any project. It is also an inclusive system, providing full accessibility, even in a wheelchair or using other mobility equipment.
A waste-free future: embracing the circular economy
To protect the future, we need to rethink the way we approach waste. The Corkeen vision is committed to developing a circular future, turning what once was seen as waste into new creative opportunities. Reusing and recycling as much as possible, extending the life of products and regenerating our natural ecosystems are all part of the solution. When the take-make-dispose model is no longer viable, the need for a paradigm shift arises.
To produce Corkeen, we guarantee full utilization of harvested material, ensuring that, just as in nature nothing is lost and everything is transformed. Even the smallest cork granules are used as a valuable energy source. Over 60% of our energy needs are met through the use of biomass (cork dust), thereby minimising greenhouse gases and reducing our carbon footprint.
Our commitment to sustainability goes a long way
Using a 100% natural and renewable material is only the beginning. In our operations, we use biomass as an energy source, and value the byproducts resulting from the production of cork stoppers. We give a new life to cork stoppers at the end of their life cycle, by making cork granules that reenter the production process, and are used in new products. In fact, at the end of the Corkeen system's life cycle, all materials are reusable, giving life to new products.
In this way, the end becomes the beginning and the wheel keeps turning.