Everything we do impacts the planet. And the responsibility to reduce a carbon footprint and make products and production as sustainable and resilient as possible falls to us all.
Building materials are a part of that. Concrete has long been the most used building material, second only to water.
Cement and concrete masonry are so widely used because they are effective; they are affordable, accessible, highly durable and long lasting. Concrete masonry is also celebrated for its thermal mass, its ability to absorb and store heat energy, moderating temperature extremes in buildings, requiring less energy use.
Now cement producers are committed to playing an essential role in reducing their carbon footprint.
This comes at a time when cement production is expected to increase by 25% by 2030 due to cities globally moving to more urbanization.
The Portland Cement Association (PCA) has announced its Roadmap to Carbon Neutrality, an ambitious journey to carbon neutrality across the cement and concrete value chain by 2050. Given the significant role of cement in society and anticipated infrastructure development, it is a critical step that the industry act now to further reduce greenhouse gases (GHGs) and create sustainable building solutions in the decades to come. The roadmap demonstrates how the U.S. cement and concrete industry, along with its entire value chain, can address climate change, decrease GHGs and eliminate barriers that are restricting environmental progress.
“Cement and concrete have been pivotal in building resilient, durable and sustainable communities that enable people to live safe, productive and healthy lives via structures that withstand natural and man-made disasters,” said PCA President and CEO, Michael Ireland. “PCA is uniquely positioned to lead the industry-wide ambition to achieving carbon neutrality and enable our member companies and industry partners to continue building a better future.”
PCA’s comprehensive industry-wide approach will allow America’s cement manufacturers to continue to deliver this critical material, while empowering the industry and others to collaborate toward a shared mission of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. View the full Roadmap here.
Industry associations also are playing a major role in the race to increased sustainability. Many are creating initiatives and establishing goals for industry partners to meet.
The Southeast Concrete Masonry Association (SCMA) was the first masonry association to offer an AIA-approved Low Carbon Concrete Masonry presentation to its members and to the professional community.
The Concrete Masonry Academy, offered by the Southeast Concrete Masonry Association (SCMA), provides continuing education at no cost to keep companies on the path toward sustainability and reduced carbon emissions.
SUSTAINABILITY AND REDUCE EMISSIONS
The SCMA and its members are addressing carbon reduction areas within the concrete masonry production facilities across five states.
Keep in mind that sustainability applies to cement, concrete and concrete masonry material. The thermal mass of a concrete masonry building is advantageous to other building materials, including wood and steel, in that respect.
Industry producers are committed to reducing carbon emissions in production and product lines. It comes as the green building materials market is expected to grow by $187.4 billion by 2027, according to a 2020 report by Research & Markets.
Many of the SCMA member cement companies are on board.
- LafargeHolcim, the world’s largest cement producer and SCMA Member, reaffirmed its commitment to reach its emissions reduction goal by 2030. It introduced several new high-performance cement products as part of its work to reduce emissions: Envirocore Cements, including OneCem Portland Limestone Cement, MaxCem Blended Cement and NewCem Slag Cement. “Concrete has an essential role to play in meeting the global challenges posed by population growth, increasing urbanization and resource scarcity,” said Patrick Cleary, LafargeHolcim’s senior vice president of U.S. cement sales. Click here to learn more.
- Roanoke Cement, an SCMA member, Type IL (1)-MS portland limestone cement is manufactured at the Roanoke Cement facility in Troutville, VA and is blended with up to 15% limestone. It is formulated to exhibit similar performance, allowing a one-to-one replacement of the RCC Type I/II cement. It is manufactured with the same raw materials, equipment and quality control processes as the Type I/II cement as worked with the association to create the first AIA-approved presentation by the concrete masonry industry for the professional community. Click here to learn more.
- Argos, an SCMA member knows of the challenges for achieving sustainability in the construction field and how demanding it is to choose the right materials and services. To facilitate this task, Argos has selected products that, due to their design, production and performance, excel in contributing to the circular economy, thus adapting to natural phenomena, user comfort and well-being or reducing carbon emissions. Click here to learn more.
- Heidelberg Cement Group, one of the world’s largest cement and concrete producers, announced plans to invest more than $500 million to modernize its factories. “We are committed to carbon neutrality on concrete level by 2050 at the latest,” said Christoph Beumelburg, Heidelberg Cement’s director of group communications and investor relations.
- Lehigh Cement, a member of the Heidelberg Cement Group and the SCMA, produces EcoCemPLC™ which provides a 10% smaller carbon footprint than conventional portland cements. Click here to learn more.
- CEMEX, an SCMA member, has developed a net-zero CO2 concrete known as Vertua, based on a geopolymer binder solution from the Cemex Research and Development Center in Switzerland. The company is also partnering with Synhelion to create the first solar-driven cement plant. Click here to learn more about Vertua.
- Buzzi Unicem USA is a supporting member of the Portland Cement Association and a member of the SCMA. Buzzi Unicem USA’s portland-limestone cement (PLC) Type IL is formulated with a higher limestone content and manufactured with less embodied energy than ordinary portland cement (OPC). Buzzi Unicem USA aims to produce PLC Type IL that meets or exceeds the performance requirements of ASTM C150 Standard Specification for Portland Cement Types I and II. Click here to learn more.
- Smaller startups are creating new products, such as CarbonCure Technologies, which is creating carbon dioxide removal solutions for the concrete industry.
Dozens of similar product innovations are in the pipeline across the globe.
ACADEMICS PITCHING IN
Academic institutions are playing a role as well. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Iowa State Concrete Paving Tech Center, Yale School of Architecture, Purdue SMART Lab and others are making significant progress researching and developing more sustainable concrete solutions.
The industry is in for another challenge, as well: keeping up with codes and requirements. In a November webinar hosted by Kevin A. MacDonald, a respected expert in the concrete industry, pointed out that cement and concrete have great potential to be more sustainable and more durable, but codes and specifications can’t keep up with the latest advancements in materials.
McDonald said that several variations of high-performance concrete have been made available in recent years, but the codes do not address changes in specifications to use those new products effectively.
“We know how to make high-performance concrete, but the codes and systems won’t allow it,” he said.
2050 CLIMATE AMBITION INITIATIVE
The 2050 Climate Ambition Initiative matches up with the requirements and deadlines of the Paris Agreement and names specific actions needed to create carbon neutral concrete, including reducing and eliminating energy-related emissions, reducing process emissions through new technologies and carbon capture, more efficient use of concrete, reuse and recycling of concrete and buildings and harnessing concrete’s ability to absorb and store carbon from the atmosphere.
The Global Concrete and Cement Association (GCCA) makes the cement and concrete industries major players in the movement toward reducing emissions. Members include companies such as Buzzi Unicem, CEMEX, CRH, HeidelbergCement, LafargeHolcim, and Votorantim Cimentos.
“There was nobody advocating for concrete at a global level and telling the positive side of concrete,” Paul Adeleke, GCCA Communications and Policy Director said.
“The first step in achieving 2050 initiative goals was creating a roadmap, which will set the pathway and milestones needed to reduced emissions,” Adeleke said. “In North America, the GCCA has teamed up with the PCA, which just published its corresponding roadmap.”
The 2050 Climate Ambition Initiative is one of many efforts ongoing in the cement and concrete industries to reduce the carbon footprint of construction materials. There will likely be many advancements in coming months and years that further that mission and ultimately, help reduce the global temperature increase.