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Modern society has been built using cement and concrete.

These materials are used throughout our daily lives to shape the world around us. Our roadways, homes, schools, communities and cities have all been shaped by cement and concrete. In fact, the only other material consumed more than concrete is water.Scroll for more about Shaped by Concrete

Concrete is truly a building block of life.

So foundational are these materials to our daily lives, it is important for cement and concrete to shape our future as well. From mitigating the effects of climate change to providing long-lasting, durable infrastructure, to contributing to a robust economy, cement and concrete play a key role in creating a more sustainable and resilient world. Scroll to watch how concrete is shaping our world

Explore how we're building a better world,
shaped by concrete.

Concrete in our world
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Cement and concrete surround us – but are often overlooked. Because of its unique versatility, durability and strength, concrete enables us to build more sustainably, improve our communities and create a more durable and prosperous nation.

Explore how we’re building a better world, shaped by concrete.

Concrete Shaping Our World

Enhancing Sustainability

The cement and concrete industry continues to be committed to a sustainable future, improving and innovating in a variety of ways and reducing energy associated with waste and maintenance. Our industry also supports policies and initiatives that enable the reduction of our carbon footprint.

Creating a Resilient Nation

Our nation and economy are sustained by safe, strong and durable infrastructure built with concrete, which allows us to better withstand natural disasters - enabling our lives and economy to function without interruption – and better address the realities of our changing climate.

Industry Leadership

Cement and concrete manufacturers play a major role in our communities, and we are committed to maintaining the health, safety and vitality of our workforce and local communities.

Foundation of Our Society

Cement and concrete are essential to our progress and development, enabling our society to be safer, stronger and more productive.

Learn the Difference Between Cement and Concrete

Although the words are used interchangeably, cement and concrete are two different types of materials, each with unique properties. More

Enhancing Sustainability

The cement and concrete industry supports our communities facing the realities of climate change with a stronger, sustainable infrastructure and is committed to working with partners to promote sustainable development initiatives that reduce the impact of production.

As Portland Cement Association (PCA) members continue to drive down the carbon intensity of their operations and products, PCA will develop a roadmap by the end of 2021 to facilitate its member companies achieving carbon neutrality across the concrete value chain by 2050. Learn more about our commitment.

For more than four decades, the cement industry has increased energy efficiency and reduced emissions in the manufacturing of cement. This industry was one of the first to acknowledge climate issues in the mid-1990’s, since then reducing carbon intensity by 11.9% along with general energy consumption while actually increasing production.

Per Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ENERGY STAR® data, cement plants have reduced energy-related carbon emissions by 1.5 million metric tons, annually. Cement manufacturers have been a leader in the use of alternative fuels, including plastic bottles and tires from landfills, to reduce carbon emissions. In fact, PCA has been recognized as an EPA ENERGY STAR partner of the year for two consecutive years.

When cement is combined with water, sand and other crushed rocks to form concrete, it’s able to make buildings more energy efficient, roads more fuel efficient, and requires less maintenance over its lifetime versus other materials. In large cities, concrete reduces the urban heat island effect, lowering the amount of energy required for cooling large cities.

Concrete can be recycled, repurposed and re-used over time saving infrastructure resources and minimizing energy, time and money spent on new construction. Concrete’s sustainable characteristics can contribute to points toward the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) program.

What most people don’t realize is that concrete permanently captures carbon in the atmosphere in a process commonly referred to as carbonation, offsetting the emissions of cement manufacturing over the life of the structure.

Considered across their full lifecycle, cement and concrete contribute to a more efficient circular economy, securing a sustainable future that lasts for generations.

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Creating a Resilient Nation

Concrete is a key part of building a resilient future, providing unparalleled durability, strength and security. Concrete enhances the ability of our communities to withstand natural disasters worsened by climate change by reducing the risk of significant damage, protecting us against high winds, fire and storm surges, and lowering the time and costs needed to rebuild communities.

Builders, architects and designers have come to recognize that buildings and homes built with concrete for better durability and to resist damage from natural disasters also reduce the impact entire communities have on our planet.

Concrete is also a key economic driver: it provides the strength for resilient infrastructure that allows our society and economy to continue functioning and is one of the cornerstones of the construction industry.

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Industry Leadership

As one of the largest industries in the United States, cement and concrete manufacturers employ hundreds of thousands of workers each year, serving as one of the nation’s key economic engines.

The impact of our industry extends far beyond economic contributions – cement and concrete play a major role in maintaining the health, safety and vitality of our workforce, utilizing rigorous standards to ensure the well-being of our workers and surrounding communities. We enforce consistent safety standards throughout our plants, provide comprehensive training to reduce injuries, monitor the air, soil and water near our plants, and routinely work with local, state, and federal regulatory agencies to ensure we operate at the highest standards.

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Foundation of Our Society

Concrete is ubiquitous in our daily lives, forming the bedrock of civilization and essential to developing structures that have shaped life for centuries. Concrete, made with the key ingredient cement, is the most widely used man-made material in existence. Concrete creates skyscrapers, bridges, hospitals, highways, dams and houses and has unlimited design possibilities. Some of the world’s most iconic structures were formed with cement and concrete.

Cement and concrete manufacturers work to enhance the communities, towns, and cities where we operate, investing in both education and social initiatives, including helping to repurpose retired facilities and depleted quarries for wildlife habitats and green spaces.

Cement and concrete continue to be essential to our progress and development, enabling our society to be safer, stronger and more productive.

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Learn the Difference Between Cement and Concrete

Although the words are used interchangeably, cement and concrete are two different types of materials. Like flour is to bread, cement is to concrete.

Concrete is a mixture of two components: aggregate and paste. The paste is made up of portland cement and water, which then binds with sand, gravel or crushed stone (aggregate).

Cement is the basic ingredient of concrete, manufactured through a closely controlled chemical combination in cement plants around the country. The result is a superfine powder, so fine that one pound of cement contains 150 billion grains.

Concrete on the other hand is a mixture of paste and crushed rocks, known as aggregates. The paste, composed of cement and water, coats the surface of the aggregates. Through a chemical reaction called hydration, the paste hardens and gains strength to form the rock-like mass known as concrete.

Within this process lies the key to a remarkable trait of concrete: it’s plastic and malleable when newly mixed, strong and durable when hardened. These qualities explain concrete’s unlimited versatility which can be used to build sidewalks, houses, highways, bridges, dams and skyscrapers.

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Featured Story

Sustainability Practices in the Cement and Concrete Industry

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The positive impact of cement and concrete in our world

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Paving the Way to a Sustainable Future

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How We Will Get to Carbon Neutral Concrete By 2050

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Locking Carbon Dioxide Into Concrete Is a Cool Idea

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Cement Production to Use Old Wind Turbine Blades After GE Inks New Deal

In an announcement Tuesday, GE Renewable Energy said the blades would be shredded at a VNA site in Missouri before being “used as a replacement for coal, sand and clay at cement manufacturing facilities across the U.S.”

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Smart Concrete Could Pave the Way for High-Tech, Cost-Effective Roads

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Portland Cement Association to further sustainability goals by creating carbon neutrality roadmap for the cement and concrete industry

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Murals return to Pueblo’s levee as artists make concrete above the Arkansas River their canvas

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Stiffer Roads Could Drive Down Carbon Emissions

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Cement and Concrete: A Basic Foundation

 

What are cement and concrete – is there a difference?

Cement is the basic ingredient of concrete, so while these terms are often used interchangeably they are two unique products. Concrete is made when cement is mixed with water, sand and rock.

How is cement made?

Cement is a manufactured product created by a closely controlled chemical combination of calcium, silicon, aluminum, iron and other ingredients.

Common materials used to manufacture cement include limestone, shells, and chalk or marl combined with shale, clay, slate, blast furnace slag, silica sand and iron ore.

These ingredients, when heated at high temperatures form a rock-like substance that is ground into the fine powder that we commonly think of as cement.

Throughout the process, cement plant laboratories check each step with chemical and physical tests to ensure the finished product complies with all industry specifications.

How cement is made more sustainably

Cement producers have a history of reducing carbon emissions and are in constant pursuit of finding ever more innovative and efficient ways of producing the high-quality cement our nation needs for things like homes, highways, hospitals and infrastructure. In fact, cement companies are working toward carbon neutrality across the concrete value chain.

Here’s a look at some of the actions already underway to making cement production more sustainable:

 

How is concrete made?

Concrete is a mixture of a paste (formed from cement and water) and rocks (smaller aggregates). Cement and water are combined to form a paste that is then mixed with aggregates and coats each stone and sand particle. Through a process called hydration, the cement and water harden and bind the smaller aggregates into a rock-like mass. This hardening process continues for years meaning that concrete gets stronger as it gets older.

While this may seem simple, the key to achieving strong, durable concrete is careful proportioning and mixing of ingredients. Typically, a mix is about 10 to 15% cement, 60 to 75% aggregate and 15 to 20% water. Small air bubbles in many concrete mixes may also take up another 5 to 8%.

There are four different forms of concrete, each with unique properties and applications:

Ready-mix concrete is the most common form and accounts for nearly three-fourths of all concrete. This is the concrete that you see in trucks with revolving drums, often at construction sites.
Precast concrete is shaped in a factory as it requires tight quality control. Precast products range from concrete bricks and paving stones to structural construction components and wall panels. These units can be molded into a wealth of shapes, configurations, colors and textures to serve an infinite spectrum of building applications and architectural needs.
Cement-based materials represent products that defy the label of “concrete,” yet share many of its qualities. Conventional materials in this category include mortar, grout and terrazzo. Soil-cement and roller-compacted concrete—“cousins” of concrete—are used for pavements and dams.
A new generation of advanced products incorporates fibers and special aggregate to create roofing tiles, shake shingles, lap siding and countertops.
Industry leadership

Supporting Our Workforce and Engaging Our Local Communities

The role of cement and concrete producers in enhancing quality of life for communities where they operate

Cement and concrete producers operate throughout the United States – helping build and rebuild our country. In the communities where we operate, we are active partners collaborating with local stakeholders on a variety of issues.

Economy

The cement and concrete industry drives economic growth in local communities and nationally:

  • The cement and concrete industry employs 600,000 people in direct jobs that totals more than $8.8 billion in employee wages, in addition to hundreds of thousands of other jobs supported by the industry.
  • The cement and concrete industry contributes $100 billion to the U.S. economy each year.
  • A strong infrastructure system (drivable roads, safe bridges, resilient structures) enables all facets of our economy to continue running smoothly.

Health

Cement and concrete manufacturers help to ensure the health and safety of local communities through continuous monitoring of natural resources, partnerships with conservation groups and award-winning environmental programs.

  • Cement and concrete manufacturers continuously monitor air, soil and water quality near manufacturing facilities and quarries, providing accurate and honest information to government authorities.
  • Cement and concrete manufacturers work with communities to reclaim and restore land from depleted quarries and retired manufacturing facilities for new uses, such as wildlife habitats.
  • Cement and concrete manufacturers partner with environmental organizations to promote environmental sustainability, nature conservation and biodiversity in our communities.
  • The cement and concrete industry ensures consistent worker safety standards in plants, and complies with safety, health and environmental regulations.
  • Manufacturing plants uphold a culture of safety through proactive hazard controls, regular team meetings and recurrent employee training focusing on jobsite and driver safety.
  • Manufacturing plants have a target of zero injuries and prohibit dangerous working practices.

 

Education

Cement and concrete manufacturers support science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education through onsite programming, fellowships and sponsorship opportunities.

  • The cement and concrete industry funds a variety of educational activities that increase public knowledge on the appropriate uses of cement and concrete by providing scholarships, fellowships, grants, and other support for the study of engineering and the physical sciences relating to the production and use of cement and concrete. Examples include the PCA Research Fellowship and ACI Foundation Fellowships, which provide financial assistance to students attending universities to provide them an opportunity for productive work in the cement and concrete industries.
  • Many quarries and manufacturing plants offer onsite programming for students, promoting interactive learning and environmental science education.
  • Cement and concrete manufacturers offer workshops and seminars providing academic faculty in engineering, architecture and construction management programs with the tools to teach the latest developments in concrete design, construction and materials.

 

For more information about how concrete structures protect our community, visit Building Safer, Stronger Communities.

Enhancing sustainability

Reducing Vehicle Emissions and Improving Fuel Efficiency

The role of concrete in improving the efficiency of our roads.

Read more

Enhancing sustainability

Sustainability Practices in the Cement and Concrete Industry

The role of concrete in building a low-carbon, circular economy.

Read more

Creating a resilient nation

Building Safer, Stronger Communities

The role of concrete in helping communities withstand natural disasters, ensuring stronger buildings and meeting the challenges of climate change.

Read more

Creating a resilient nation

Enhancing the Way We Access and Manage Water

The role of concrete in providing greater conservation and access to our water resources

Climate change predictions suggest that in the future, our world can expect to experience longer drought periods and larger flood events. With the continuous growth of our global population, the need to conserve and recycle as much fresh water as possible is critical. The structures that allow us to safely store and use water, as well as protect our cities from floods, rely on and are improved by concrete. Concrete structures play a critical role in water resource projects, enabling access to water and improving quality of life.

When creating structures to maintain our access to water, it is important to select a building material that provides the safest, strongest and most durable option. Cement and concrete are the foundation of strong and safe reservoirs, dams and canals.

Reservoirs and storage tanks

Reservoirs store water for irrigation, drinking water, waste management and industrial uses. Cement and concrete are the ideal materials for building reservoirs – cement creates sturdy and nearly impermeable structures, and concrete can withstand great amounts of pressure, so it doesn’t wear down. Concrete can also be used to make storage tanks for clean drinking water. These tanks can be covered and safely store water for long periods of time.

Dams

Dams play a pivotal role in controlling floods and protecting areas in flood plains, as well as providing water for irrigation, drinking or hydro-electric power. The United States currently has more than 80,000 dams in service. Concrete is the material of choice for dams. And while the Hoover Dam is often what comes to mind when people think concrete dam, concrete is also used to reinforce earthen dams too, acting like armor plating to protect earthen dams from washing out or failing when overtopped by floodwaters. For example, concrete lines the emergency spillways in the earthen Oroville Dam – the U.S.’s tallest dam.

Liners

Reservoirs, canals and other water-retaining ground structures need reliable protection from leakage. One way to provide that protection is through the use of concrete liners, which provide both long-term, durable solutions, while also enhancing the performance of the structure.

Liners are employed in a wide variety of applications, including ponds, reservoirs, landfills, canals and facings for dams and spillways. We even see these protective barriers beneath streets, buildings or on the surface of reservoirs to protect from pollution.

For more information about the sustainability properties of concrete, visit Sustainability Practices in the Cement and Concrete Industry.

For more information about the benefits and resilient properties of concrete structures, visit Building Safer, Stronger Communities.

Creating a resilient nation

Connecting Our Transportation Systems

The role of concrete in connecting us to our daily lives and keeping our economy moving.

Read more

Creating a resilient nation

Building Safer, Stronger Communities

The role of concrete in helping communities withstand natural disasters, ensuring stronger buildings and meeting the challenges of climate change.

Read more

Industry leadership

Supporting Our Workforce and Engaging Our Local Communities

The role of cement and concrete producers in enhancing quality of life for communities where they operate.

Read more

Creating a resilient nation

Building Safer, Stronger Communities

The role of concrete in helping communities withstand natural disasters, ensuring stronger buildings and meeting the challenges of climate change

Concrete structures play a critical role in making communities stronger and safer. Concrete is the best construction material to mitigate the impacts of extreme weather events and disasters. When compared to other building materials – there is no contest.

Durability

One word often associated with concrete is durability. There are two aspects of durability. One is the ability to stand up to normal wear and tear and last a long time. The other is to resist extreme events like natural (or man-made) disasters. Concrete is the best choice for construction:

  • Concrete lasts longer and costs owners much less in maintenance and repairs over the lifetime of the building.
  • It can be used for construction in all climates. It is non-combustible and does not rot, warp, mold or sag when exposed to moisture over time.

 

Resiliency

One of the safest places to be during a major storm is in a reinforced concrete building. In fact, most safe rooms and shelters are made with concrete. A structure’s resiliency, be it residential, commercial or public property, is determined by whether occupants can safely shelter there during natural disasters, and whether the structure itself can survive. If a structure can be repaired rather than replaced following a disaster, it’s a faster and less expensive return to normal for the residents of the homes and a quick return to business operations for commercial establishments.

Concrete can be incorporated into structures in several ways to make them more durable and disaster resistant:

  • Using concrete walls, floors and roofs offers an unsurpassed combination of structural strength and wind resistance.
  • Concrete is non-combustible and concrete walls, floors and roofs are given a good fire rating by the International Code Council. Most concrete structures (those with a thickness of 3 to 5 inches) are more fire resistant than structures built with other materials, making them more likely to withstand fires and giving occupants more time to safely evacuate.
  • Concrete is not subject to rot, which would occur in wood when exposed to warm, wet conditions.
  • Finally, hardened exterior finishes, like those offered by concrete, for walls and roofs of a home or business provide the best combination of strength and security.

 

Resilient communities start with comprehensive planning and a preference for robust structures with long service lives. More durable buildings with resilient features promote community continuity.

Lifecycle costs

Over the life of a building, the expected cost of maintenance and post-disaster repair can exceed initial building costs—making an economic case for investing up front in resilient construction. Although concrete is cost competitive when making initial decisions about building materials, the overall cost of construction is less about materials and more about labor and time spent making repairs and other upkeep on the structure.

Sustainability through resiliency

The most sustainable building is the building that is only built once. Buildings and structures with resilient design and materials are not only better able to recover following disasters, such as hurricanes or fires, they are also the new “green” buildings. Builders, architects and designers have come to recognize that more durable public buildings, private homes and businesses – often built with concrete to resist damage from natural disasters – also reduce the impact our communities have on our planet.

Resilient structures are good for the planet because their environmental footprint can be spread over many decades. Building more resiliently can help keep materials out of landfills, preventing organic material, such as timber, from decomposing and generating landfill gas (LFG). LFG contains roughly 50% methane, which is more harmful than carbon dioxide.

For more information about how concrete creates resilient transportation networks, visit Connecting Our Transportation Systems.

For more information about the sustainability properties of concrete, visit Sustainability Practices in the Cement and Concrete Industry.

Creating a resilient nation

Connecting Our Transportation Systems

The role of concrete in connecting us to our daily lives and keeping our economy moving.

Read more

Creating a resilient nation

Enhancing the Way We Access and Manage Water

The role of concrete in providing greater conservation and access to our water resources.

Read more

Industry leadership

Supporting Our Workforce and Engaging Our Local Communities

The role of cement and concrete producers in enhancing quality of life for communities where they operate.

Read more

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Connecting Our Transportation Systems

The role of concrete in connecting us to our daily lives and keeping our economy moving

The roadways and airstrips connecting our nation are integral to our society and daily lives. We expect smooth drives and safe landings, yet we rarely stop to think about the foundation of those expectations: the best material that can be used to surface roads, runways and other infrastructure.

Concrete pavements are a staple of our infrastructure – a durable, economical and sustainable solution for our roadways, airstrips, military bases, parking lots and sidewalks. Additionally, concrete pavements offer many safety benefits to drivers.

Durability

Simply put, concrete pavements have the longest lifespan of any paving material. It can withstand the freezing winters of the upper Midwest to the scorching summers of the Southwest, with an average service life of 30 to 50 years.

  • A survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation found that concrete pavements last 29.4 years before a major rehabilitation is required – compared to asphalt, which requires major rehabilitation after 13.8 years.

 

Sustainability

Concrete pavements consume minimal materials, energy and other resources throughout its lifespan, giving it a lower overall energy footprint, and offers better fuel efficiency for drivers. Concrete pavements have a lower energy footprint associated with production, delivery and maintenance than asphalt pavement.

  • Concrete’s lighter color reduces the amount of power necessary for illumination and mitigates the urban heat island effect.
  • Tires driving over smoother roads get better mileage per tank of gas; the overall better condition of concrete pavement compared to asphalt gives drivers better roads and better mileage.
  • Concrete can be 100% recycled at the end of its service life, making it a renewable pavement option.

 

Economical

Concrete pavements require minimal materials and energy for initial construction and do not require repeated resurfacing, spot repairs or patching. Compared to other road surfacing materials which require constant maintenance, concrete is cheaper to use at the outset and less expensive throughout its lifespan because it does not require extensive upkeep.

  • It was estimated that using lifecycle cost analysis for pavements alone can save an average $91 million for every $1 billion spent, or 9.1%, when comparing equivalent concrete and asphalt pavement alternatives.
  • The use of concrete pavement is less disruptive to traffic – the construction of concrete pavements does not require lengthy lane closures and roads can be reopened in as short as six hours.
  • Concrete pavement can dramatically increase the life of transportation systems, cutting the amount of yearly repairs and spreading them out over longer time periods.

 

Safety

Concrete pavement offers a number of safety benefits, including:

  • Less potential for road hazards. Deteriorating pavement impacts stopping distance and increases the number of work zones for repairs. Because of its longer life, there is less need for closures for repairs. Asphalt pavements require regular maintenance every two to four years to correct rutting, cracking, potholes, and other problems, whereas concrete pavements typically need only minor rehabilitation at 12 to 16 years.
  • Better visibility. Concrete pavement is easier to see due to its lighter color and reflects more light, making it easier to see objects on the road as well.
  • Greater traction. Concrete pavement ensures shorter vehicle stopping distances in wet weather and features a skid resistant surface. Concrete pavements never rut or “washboard,” like asphalt pavement, and both of these features reduce the dangers of hydroplaning and provide better, long-term traction.

For more information about how concrete contributes to a more resilient nation, visit Building Safer, Stronger Communities.

For more information about the sustainability benefits of concrete pavements, visit Reducing Vehicle Emissions and Improving Fuel Efficiency.

Creating a resilient nation

Building Safer, Stronger Communities

The role of concrete in helping communities withstand natural disasters, ensuring stronger buildings and meeting the challenges of climate change.

Read more

Creating a resilient nation

Enhancing the Way We Access and Manage Water

The role of concrete in providing greater conservation and access to our water resources.

Read more

Industry leadership

Supporting Our Workforce and Engaging Our Local Communities

The role of cement and concrete producers in enhancing quality of life for communities where they operate.

Read more

Enhancing sustainability

Sustainability Practices in the Cement and Concrete Industry

The role of concrete in building a low-carbon, circular economy

Every year, the U.S. uses approximately 260 million cubic yards of concrete to build highways, bridges, runways, water and sewage pipes, buildings and homes, dams, sidewalks and driveways. As the second most used material on the planet after water, the U.S. cement industry is committed to minimizing emissions, waste, energy consumption and the use of virgin raw materials.

Cement is becoming more energy efficient – and the industry continues to progress on efficiency

The cement industry began to address climate change in the mid-1990s—one of the first industries to do so.

  • The industry has reduced its use of traditional fossil fuels by over 15%.
  • In 2020, The Environmental Protection Agency ENERGY STAR® Program recognized 95 manufacturing facilities in the U.S. as ENERGY STAR® certified for operating in the top 25 percent of efficiency performance in their respective industry sectors. The cement industry represented 13 of those facilities.
  • According to 2019 ENERGY STAR® data, cement plants have reduced energy-related carbon emissions by 1.5 million metric tons, annually.
  • Since 1990 manufacturers have reduced carbon intensity by 11.9% along with general energy consumption while actually increasing production.

 

Leading the use and development of alternative fuels

The cement industry is a leader in sustainable material and fuel use. In fact, the cement industry expands the circular economy by diverting waste materials from landfills and uses them for fuel or incorporates them as valuable additives.

  • Burning alternative fuels in cement kilns like scrap tires, packaging, plastics and solvents conserves valuable fossil fuels while safely destroying wastes that would otherwise be deposited in landfills.
  • Elements like aluminum, iron and silica that are used to produce clinker can come from industrial byproducts of the coal and steel industry, creating better and more sustainable uses for these byproducts.
  • The Construction Materials Recycling Association estimates that about 140 million tons of concrete are recycled each year in the U.S., reducing the environmental impact of construction projects.

 

Lowering emissions in buildings and our urban environments

The durability, resiliency and insulating qualities of cement-related products lower our environmental footprint as a society. Considered across their full lifecycle, cement and concrete building materials are also valuable contributors to a low-carbon circular economy.

  • According to the MIT Concrete Sustainability Hub, by adopting the latest building codes and concrete mixes, emissions from U.S. office buildings could decrease by 12%.
  • Concrete does not rust, rot or burn, saving energy and resources needed to replace or repair damaged buildings and infrastructure.
  • Concrete makes urban areas cooler as its lighter color reflects more sunlight than other, darker materials.
  • Because of its durability, concrete structures will not require additional carbon release to produce additional materials used for repairs.
  • Over time, concrete actually absorbs carbon dioxide from the ambient air, returning a portion of emissions from the cement manufacturing process to the building itself.
  • In fact, for all of the concrete produced in the U.S. between 1990 and 2018, more than 300 million metric tons of carbon dioxide will be adsorbed and sequestered by concrete over its service life.

 

Sustaining our transportation network

A well-functioning transportation network is the backbone of the U.S. economy and essential for U.S. businesses to compete globally and provide the best value to American consumers.

  • Because of its rigidity, concrete pavement can enhance the fuel efficiency of vehicles that travel on concrete pavement roads when compared to other pavements.
  • Concrete structures, including pavement, are long-lived – concrete pavement has an average service life of 30-50 years.
  • Concrete pavement is less susceptible to damage from heavy vehicles and requires little to no maintenance throughout its service life.
  • Concrete pavements do not require lengthy lane closures, with roads able to reopen within as little as six hours. This reduces time-in-traffic auto emissions.

 

For more information about how concrete is the best choice for sustainable pavements, visit Reducing Vehicle Emissions and Improving Fuel Efficiency.

Enhancing sustainability

Reducing Vehicle Emissions and Improving Fuel Efficiency

The role of concrete in improving the efficiency of our roads.

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Creating a resilient nation

Connecting Our Transportation Systems

The role of concrete in connecting us to our daily lives and keeping our economy moving.

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Creating a resilient nation

Building Safer, Stronger Communities

The role of concrete in helping communities withstand natural disasters, ensuring stronger buildings and meeting the challenges of climate change.

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Enhancing sustainability

Reducing Vehicle Emissions and Improving Fuel Efficiency

The role of concrete in improving the efficiency of our roads

Fuel consumption and related emissions from vehicles depend on a number of factors like the size of the vehicle and the type of engine, but most drivers might be surprised to learn that the quality of the roads we drive on also impacts the amount of fuel our vehicles use. On roads where surface conditions are poor, vehicles consume more fuel beyond what is actually needed to move, which leads to excess fuel consumption and emissions.

 

Damaged city roads can increase the amount of fuel used – and the associated greenhouse gas emissions – by as much as 15%.[1]

Concrete offers the most fuel-efficient pavement option. Because of its rigidity, concrete pavement can enhance the fuel efficiency of vehicles that travel on concrete pavement roads when compared to other pavements, and due to its durability, it requires less frequent maintenance and doesn’t wear down as quickly as other pavements.

If concrete pavements were used by the entire U.S. road system, fuel consumption is estimated to decrease by 3% nationwide, which corresponds to a reduction of approximately 46.5 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions.[2]

Three key pavement factors affect a vehicle’s fuel efficiency

  • The roughness of the road, commonly seen and felt as cracks and potholes
  • The texture of the road’s surface, which impacts traction when wet
  • The likelihood that the pavement will bend under the weight of the vehicles

 

As these three factors create additional, unnecessary friction for vehicles and reduce their fuel efficiency, optimizing pavement conditions can reduce carbon dioxide emissions. There are two strategies for creating more optimal pavement conditions: build stiffer pavements and maintain smoother pavements – and concrete pavement offers both.

Facts and stats

Studies across the U.S. have shown the impact of poor pavements:

  • An analysis of approximately 50,000 miles of highway in California found that over a five-year period 1 billion gallons of excess fuel was used.
  • A study of 5,000 miles of Virginia’s interstate highways found that excessive fuel consumption resulted in 1 million tons of carbon dioxide over a seven-year period.
  • When looking at 40-ton trucks (used for freight and trucking), decreasing the impacts of deflection through stiffer roads can lead to a fuel savings of up to 4%, which translates to 2 million tons of carbon dioxide.

 

For additional information, please visit the MIT Concrete Sustainability Hub.

For more information about the sustainability properties of concrete, visit Sustainability Practices in the Cement and Concrete Industry.

Enhancing sustainability

Sustainability Practices in the Cement and Concrete Industry

The role of concrete in building a low-carbon, circular economy.

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Creating a resilient nation

Connecting Our Transportation Systems

The role of concrete in connecting us to our daily lives and keeping our economy moving.

Read more

Creating a resilient nation

Building Safer, Stronger Communities

The role of concrete in helping communities withstand natural disasters, ensuring stronger buildings and meeting the challenges of climate change.

Read more

Enhancing sustainability

Concrete Creates Sustainable and Environmentally Responsible Infrastructure

Looking at the full lifecycle of infrastructure, concrete and cement enhance sustainability

 

QUICK FACTS

  • Concrete structures have similar amounts of embodied carbon dioxide and energy when compared to other building materials. Embodied carbon dioxide is the carbon dioxide associated with building construction, including extracting, transporting and manufacturing materials.
  • Concrete is the most durable, resilient building material due to its long service-life and ability to withstand the elements, and it requires less maintenance and repairs, meaning less energy and emissions for upkeep compared to other building materials.
  • Concrete actually absorbs carbon dioxide over its entire life and captures it permanently, but unlike other sources which may also absorb carbon dioxide, such as wood, it will not rot and release that carbon dioxide back into the environment.

Concrete made with cement is the most used man-made product in the world. As climate concerns grow, these foundational materials are uniquely positioned to help us meet the challenges of a more sustainable world.

Carbon dioxide emissions from all sources, including the building sector, are receiving increased attention. While the cement industry was one of the first to acknowledge climate change issues and implement tangible steps to reduce emissions through programs focused on process and energy efficiency, the major sustainability benefits of concrete made with cement are not widely known.

Concrete and cement play an important role in our economy and are an essential part of a sustainable future.

We need to take a lifecycle approach

In order to truly determine which building materials are the most sustainable, we must consider them in terms of their entire lifecycle, that is, from sourcing and production through end use and disposal. Specifically, for building materials such as concrete, wood, steel and glass, the best way to measure environmental impact is by looking at their embodied carbon and energy.

Embodied carbon is all the carbon dioxide emitted and energy expended during the sourcing, manufacture, transport, construction use, reuse, recycling and disposal of building materials.

Why a lifecycle approach?

Looking at just one stage of a material’s service life is not an accurate measure of how much carbon dioxide or energy is expended in relation to that material and it is misleading when we think about solving a complex challenge such as climate change.

Although cement’s carbon footprint for production is higher than some other materials, concrete itself has a low carbon footprint. In fact, concrete has similar embodied carbon (e.g., carbon per kilogram of concrete) to most common building materials, but its impact appears much greater because we use so much of it – it’s the second most consumed material on Earth after water. Concrete’s global prevalence is for good reason – it is available, durable, versatile and cost-effective. It is also sustainable, playing a part in limiting or reducing building emissions and being 100% recyclable.

A lifecycle assessment of several building types conducted by MIT has shown that embodied environmental impacts of buildings are around 10% of the total lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions; energy use (such as heating, cooling and maintenance of the building) represents the vast majority of environmental impacts. Simply put, the impact of creating a building is just a small part of the picture, compared to the energy and emissions required to operate the building over its life.

Production (the 10%)

Cement and concrete production is heavily regulated and monitored, with standards in place for each step in the manufacturing process to measure and understand environmental impact. But production within other building material industries is not always monitored in the same way. Often the energy and emissions associated with sourcing materials and transportation, such as in the timber industry, is not considered when measuring embodied carbon.1

In addition, cement and concrete production offers opportunities for innovation and increased efficiency. As part of their ongoing work to lower emissions, many cement manufacturers have recently introduced a type of cement called portland-limestone cement in the U.S., which lowers carbon dioxide emissions about 10% during production. Many have also incorporated alternative fuels like biomass and waste materials into production, which are less carbon intensive and result in lower emissions. Additionally, promising innovations such as carbon capture and storage technology are being evaluated which can help cement plants reduce their overall carbon footprint.

Construction and use (the other 90%)

The most sustainable building is one that you only have to build once and can maintain efficiently. Durability and resilience are vital parts of sustainable construction, as insufficient durability or resilience may result in a reduced building life, unexpected repairs or even total reconstruction, with all their associated costs and social impacts. Concrete structures typically have a longer service life than ones made with steel and timber, as they do not rust or rot and are pest resistant. Moreover, concrete structures can be repurposed avoiding having to destroy and reconstruct buildings using new materials which would create pollution and use more energy.

Use

Over the course of a concrete building’s lifecycle, concrete is continually absorbing and trapping carbon dioxide from the air and offsets more than 11% of the carbon dioxide emitted to produce it. Importantly, concrete will not burn, rust, rot, or re-release that carbon dioxide back into the environment.

Wood, the only other construction material that can sequester carbon dioxide, captures carbon dioxide while the tree is alive and will emit that carbon dioxide if it rots or burns.

Cement and concrete building materials also exhibit excellent thermal insulating mass, improving the energy efficiency of buildings. Studies by MIT have shown that homes with concrete walls can use 8 to 15% less energy than other homes.2

End of Life

Concrete’s unparalleled durability enables buildings to be reused and repurposed, extending the lifespan of construction and reducing waste over time. Additionally, concrete is 100% recyclable – structures built from concrete can be crushed and recycled for other functions without material loss or pollution. Every exposed concrete surface absorbs carbon dioxide and deconstructing a concrete building and crushing the concrete into pieces offers the potential for greater carbon dioxide uptake.

When determining which building materials to use for our infrastructure, we must look at the entire life cycle of the structure (building, road, bridge) to understand how the materials it’s made from impact its use phase. Only then can we make informed decisions to move us closer to our sustainable development and emissions reductions goals.

For more information about the sustainability properties of concrete, visit Sustainability Practices in the Cement and Concrete Industry.

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How We Will Get to Carbon Neutral Concrete By 2050

Michael Ireland
President and CEO at Portland Cement Association

The cement and concrete industry is taking significant steps toward addressing climate change and emissions. Late last year, the Portland Cement Association announced plans to develop a roadmap for its member companies to achieve carbon neutrality across the concrete value chain by 2050.

To reach this goal, it is imperative that we have partnership from stakeholders along the concrete value chain; we cannot address this problem alone. Only by working together as an industry can we hope to realize the multitude of solutions that must be developed across policies and regulations, technology and innovation and demand generation.

The United States industry aligning under a formal and measurable commitment to reduce emissions comes at a critical time in our country. As the U.S. transitions into a Biden administration, our industry is optimistic about the potential of environmental progress being made in a bipartisan manner. We are hopeful for the opportunity to further collaborate with federal officials and work together to achieve our shared climate goals.

Additionally, the economic and health crisis brought on by COVID-19 represents an opportunity to build back better. Responsible leadership in the manufacturing and use of cement and concrete will be a critical part of creating a more sustainable built environment and future. After all, cement and concrete are the foundation of our homes, connect our communities, encourage trade and enable prosperity.

The cement and concrete industry will be a leading voice in enabling the construction sector to rise and meet this challenge. With the formation of PCA’s new Sustainability Council, comprised of sustainability experts from our members companies, and with input from external experts, we will develop the roadmap that will guide us on perhaps the most ambitious decarbonization journey ever attempted.

Cement manufacturers have a history of innovation and modernization. Cement and concrete was one of the first industries to address climate issues in the mid-1990’s reducing energy consumption by more than 35% while actually increasing production. Investing in new innovative technologies and working with academic partners like the MIT Concrete Sustainability Hub will be key to ongoing research efforts. The roadmap will also explore how to stimulate demand for low-carbon materials, from building awareness to educating architects and developers on the latest sustainable options. We are proud to accelerate those efforts even further by developing this roadmap toward carbon neutrality.

We are committed to addressing climate change and supporting a sustainable circular economy, and this roadmap will enable PCA’s member companies to continue building a better future.

Blog

The Most Sustainable Building is One That Only Needs to be Built Once

Ron Henley
President – GCC of America
Portland Cement Association (PCA) Chairman of the Board

Concrete is a key part of building a resilient future, providing unparalleled durability, strength, and security. Not only is concrete better able to withstand normal wear and tear, but it also enhances the ability of our communities to withstand natural disasters worsened by climate change by reducing the risk of significant damage; protecting us against high winds, fires, and storm surges; and lowering the time and costs needed to rebuild communities.

When it comes to resiliency – which is measured by whether building occupants can safely shelter during natural disasters and whether the structure itself can survive – concrete is the most resilient building material. If a structure can be repaired rather than replaced following a disaster, it is faster, less expensive and more energy efficient return to normalcy for cities, residents, and business operations.

Increased durability from concrete provides economic benefits, especially in disaster-prone areas: every $1 spent on resilient building and construction can save $6 in recovery costs according to a recent study by the National Institute of Building Sciences. Furthermore, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecasts predict more storms and major hurricanes than average this year. Considering that from 2015-2019 there have been at least 10 disaster events each causing over $1 billion in damage, savings from resilient concrete construction can quickly scale up.

Since the expected cost of maintenance and post-disaster repairs can exceed initial building costs, the economic case for resilient construction using concrete is simple: a small investment up front pays exponential dividends throughout the life of a building. Even with those benefits, studies have shown concrete to be cost competitive to other building materials at every level of resilience.

Builders, architects, and designers have come to recognize that buildings and homes built with concrete are more durable and resistant damage from natural disasters. Resilient structures also benefit our planet because their environmental footprint can be spread over several decades. Concrete truly offers the best mix of safety, resiliency, affordability, and sustainability.

As the most widely used construction material, concrete is readily available, cost competitive with steel and wood, and resilient. And it will continue to have a key place in creating a resilient – and sustainable – future.

If you would like to learn more about the resiliency of concrete or our campaign, please visit Shaped by Concrete

Creating a resilient nation

Reducing Carbon Footprint with PLC

A new ‘greener’ cement supports sustainability efforts

Concrete is ubiquitous in our daily lives and a key part of building sustainable, resilient communities. The cement and concrete industry is committed to research and innovation to evolve and provide solutions to continue to improve upon these essential materials, helping to create a more environmentally responsible future.

Portland-limestone cement (PLC) is a type of cement that has been common internationally for decades but is relatively new to North America. PLC’s main benefit is a lower carbon footprint, reducing carbon dioxide emissions during production by 10% on average. In fact, by shifting production to PLC, manufacturers have already reduced carbon dioxide emissions by more than 325,000 metric tons in the U.S. from 2012-2018, equivalent to carbon stored in over 400,000 acres of forest.

Concrete is the most used building material in the world and a key part of U.S. infrastructure because it is durable; resilient; does not rust, rot or burn; and can withstand powerful storms. Now, it is also greener.

What are the benefits?

 

 

 

How does it work?

PLC is produced in a way that is very similar to traditional portland cement, the only difference being more limestone is used during the mixing process, resulting in a reduction in carbon dioxide intensity.

PLC has undergone extensive testing and research in the U.S. and other countries to ensure its durability and resiliency. PLC also is simple to switch to as it is a 1:1 replacement for traditional portland  cement. This allows users to continue their standard operations with minimal disruption and change. The decrease in carbon emissions makes PLC a more sustainable, yet equally resilient and dependable option as a building material.

As we continue to rely on concrete to support our thriving cities, the cement and concrete industry is ensuring that the second most used materials in the world continues to evolve and become more sustainable. Because of the frequency that concrete is used, even small changes to its formulation, making it greener, can have a dramatic impact on emissions.

To learn more about PLC, visit greenercement.com.

 

For more information about the sustainability properties of concrete, visit Sustainability Practices in the Cement and Concrete Industry.

 

For more information about the impact of cement and concrete across their full lifecycle, visit Concrete Creates Sustainable and Environmentally Responsible Infrastructure.

 

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A ‘Greener’ Cement Supporting Sustainability and Reducing Carbon Footprint

Filiberto Ruiz
President and Chief Executive Officer, Votorantim Cimentos North America
Vice Chairman, PCA Board of Directors

Concrete is ubiquitous in our daily lives. As the world’s most-used man-made material, it is an essential part of infrastructure improvements and new construction throughout North America. Concrete is durable; resilient; doesn’t rust, rot, or burn; and can withstand powerful storms. Now, it is also greener.

Portland-limestone cement (PLC) is a type of cement that has been common internationally for decades but is still relatively new to North America. PLC’s main benefit is a lower carbon footprint, with CO2 emissions reduced during production by 10% on average. In fact, by shifting production to PLC, manufacturers have already reduced CO2 emissions by more than 325,000 metric tons in the U.S. from 2012-2018 — equivalent to the amount of CO2 stored in over 400,000 acres of forest — without sacrificing the material’s physical properties needed for their projects.

Here are a few examples how PLC is already helping reduce CO2 emissions in the U.S.:

  • Using PLC contributed to a 50% lower carbon footprint for Mississippi State University’s Davis Wade Stadium.
  • Using PLC to build new bridge decks, the Tennessee Department of Transportation saved about 50 lbs. of CO2 for each cubic yard of concrete – the equivalent of the energy emissions from charging 2,892 smartphones.
  • Using PLC to construct the University of California, San Diego biomedical research facility resulted in a 160-ton reduction in CO2 emissions, which is equal to the energy emissions from burning 176,298 lbs of coal.
  • The ongoing construction of the Drexel University Academic Tower is using PLC and saving about 370 tons of CO2 emissions – equivalent to energy emissions from 41,634 gallons of gasoline consumed.

 
These examples prove that as we continue to rely on concrete to support our thriving cities and rural areas, the cement and concrete industry is working diligently to ensure the building materials we need are becoming more sustainable. Because of the scale at which concrete is used, even small changes to its formulation to make it greener can have a dramatic positive impact on emissions.

PLC is produced in a way that is very similar to traditional portland cement, the only difference being more limestone is used during the mixing process, resulting in a reduction in CO2 intensity.

PLC has undergone extensive testing and research in the United States and other countries to ensure its durability and resiliency. Builders and designers can expect the same strength with minimal disruption and change to their projects. The decrease in CO2 emissions makes PLC a more sustainable, yet equally resilient and dependable option as a building material.

The cement and concrete industry is committed to continuing research and innovation to provide greener solutions to improve upon these essential materials, helping to create more sustainable communities and an environmentally responsible future for our planet.

To learn more specifics about portland-limestone cement, visit greenercement.com. And, to Learn more about the cement and concrete industry’s commitment to sustainability visit shapedbyconcrete.com.

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Paving the Way to a Sustainable Future

Tom Beck
President, Continental Cement

Concrete is the foundation of our transportation system – forming the roads, bridges and runways that connect us across the nation. It is also the foundation of a sustainable transportation system, playing a role in cutting vehicle emissions and energy expended on maintenance.

Fuel consumption and vehicle emissions depend on factors like vehicle size and engine type. However, drivers might be surprised to learn the condition of the roads we drive on also impacts our vehicles’ fuel efficiency. In fact, damaged pavements can increase fuel use – and their associated greenhouse gas emissions – by as much as 15%.

There are three factors that create additional, unnecessary friction for vehicles leading to reduced fuel efficiency:

  1. The roughness of the road, commonly seen and felt as cracks and potholes.
  2. The texture of the road, which impacts noise, smoothness, and traction.
  3. The stiffness of the road, affecting the amount to which a pavement bends under the weight of vehicles.

To create more optimal pavement conditions, we must build and maintain stiffer and smoother roads – and concrete pavement meets both criteria.

Concrete pavements can prove a useful solution for transportation departments, and therefore states, to meet emissions targets by reducing the fuel consumption of the vehicles that drive on them.

Studies across the U.S. have shown the impact of rough pavements on the environment. In an analysis of Missouri’s highway network, researchers found that improving the state’s roads with smoother more durable pavement would result in significant emissions reductions of 29.9 million metric tons of C02[1]. This would be the equivalent of greenhouse gas emissions from 6.4 million passenger vehicles in one year.

According to research from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Concrete Sustainability Hub, if concrete pavements comprised the entire U.S. road system, fuel consumption would decrease by an estimated 3% nationwide, because concrete roads are inherently smooth and stiff. This decrease in fuel consumption corresponds to a reduction of approximately 46.5 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, annually.

Not only do concrete pavements contribute to reduced emissions, the fact that they also have the longest lifespan of any paving material makes them the most sustainable paving option. A survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation found that concrete pavements last an average of 29.4 years before a major rehabilitation is required. Due to their durability, they do not deteriorate as quickly as other pavement types and requires less frequent maintenance – which saves energy and emissions associated with that upkeep.

When I think about paving the way to a more sustainable future, it is literally shaped by concrete.