Innovative Concrete Solutions

The EU’s goal to reduce carbon emissions by 40% by the year 2030 has invited the research for sustainable solutions across the world. Like many industries, the construction sector has two options: pay the rising carbon taxes or develop innovative technology to reduce the emissions. Lukasz Kisiel of Kisiel Ltd supports the discovery of sustainable solutions and anticipates that building practices in the future will rely on materials that are safe for the environment.

Today, the industry is fuelled by new solutions aimed to reduce carbon levels. Cement, the foundational material used in every project lies at the heart of the debate. After water, cement is the most used substance in the world.

The cement-making process involves a large amount of expended energy and high heat. To start, limestone is finely crushed, then mixed with clay. This mixture gets roasted in a kiln at temperatures nearing 1,500 degrees Celsius. During the heating process, the limestone’s carbon gets released into the air; contributing to more than 5% of the global CO2 emissions each year.

In recent years, sustainable cement has surfaced, giving companies the opportunity to try out the greener techniques.

The former London-based startup, Novacem, has produced a green cement that actually traps carbon gas in the process of cooling. By replacing limestone, the carbon-dense mineral used to produce traditional cement, the company eliminates the release of gas completely. Nikolaos Vlasopoulos, chief scientist at the start up Novacem discovered the solution in 2009.

“I was investigating cements produced by mixing magnesium oxides with Portland cement,” Vlasopoulos said on MIT’s technology review. The company’s green technology rights have since been purchased, but there is hope that enough interest will fuel its investment.

Novacem’s solution is exciting on many levels. First, it eliminates the release of any gas in the process. Second, the innovative solution works to absorb existing gas in the atmosphere. While the success of the product relies on its acceptance in the industry, green advocates hope that companies will prioritise sustainability over high tax rates.

In a previous post, Kisiel highlights another innovative concrete solution: permeable concrete. Permeable, or pervious concrete, absorbs and redistributes rainwater. This technique is as durable as traditional cement, however, its ability to store water beneath its surface could eliminate the need for storm water retention facilities. Pervious concrete is more similar to soil and decreases a host of problems that concrete presents, like flash flooding, water pollution, and disturbances in the ecosystem.

While concrete’s production process is the main source of gas emissions, it’s also important to note that the volume of concrete produced contributes to its high carbon footprint. From streets and sidewalks to buildings and schools, concrete remains the most heavily used substance in the construction industry. While developing sustainable techniques is an excellent start, it’s also important to focus on ways to reduce its demand.