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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.

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

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.