Low Carbon Concrete Routemap Shows How To Decarbonize The Infrastructure Industry

Low Carbon Concrete Routemap Shows How To Decarbonize The Infrastructure Industry - Carbon Herald

As the cement industry is working hard toward decarbonizing its heavy carbon footprint, the Green Construction Board and the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) released a joint project shedding light on how to minimize carbon emissions throughout the sector. 

The project is called the Low Carbon Concrete Routemap – a guiding tool examining how the infrastructure industry can use the latest tools, technologies, and materials to continue using concrete while also reducing its carbon footprint.

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The Roadmap is available for download for free, so the industry can use it to implement low carbon emissions best practices for concrete production and use.

The report is trying to answer the fundamental question concerning everyone in the industry right now – as the infrastructure sector works towards a zero-carbon future, how can we continue to use concrete given its high environmental impact?

Key recommendations include using concrete but capturing and permanently storing CO2 emissions inside it during manufacturing. That requires the development of knowledge and technology which is now just emerging from the lab but already implemented by several companies.

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In the concrete being used, the industry is also recommended to be minimizing the amount of Portland cement. It is also highlighted it should use the most reliable ways of long term storage of greenhouse gases which requires the development of knowledge and technology which is going through pilot testing.

A case study of low carbon innovation was examined in the Low Carbon Concrete Routemap – the $123 million (£100 million) Boston Barrier scheme – built to protect over 14,000 properties in Boston from tidal flooding over the next 100 years.

Credit: Pixabay

The main flood gate of the defense scheme used low-carbon concrete, which saved more than 1,300 tons of CO2 emissions equivalent. The project also raised a control room above the flood level which avoided the need for deep piled foundations and saved a further 360 tons of CO2e.

The project involves reducing the actual cement content of the supplied mix while still ensuring it met minimum strength requirements. The concrete mix for the barrier structure included 70% ground granulated blast-furnace slag which is the maximum permitted proportion. 

Limestone powder was adopted as the coarse aggregate in the mix. This is the preferred choice for water-retaining concrete as it minimizes the coefficient of thermal expansion and lowers the reinforcement requirements and potential for cracking.

The report also points out the cost savings from using decarbonization practices. It predicts this will lead to major cost cuttings, ranging from $3.08 billion (£2.5bn) to $13 billion (£10.5bn) by 2050, depending on how quickly the industry decarbonizes.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from critical industries like infrastructure has been a predicament over the last decade, however using existing technologies, the sector could not only achieve a lower carbon footprint but also significant cost reductions which would benefit both the industry and the environment.

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