Environmental Impact of the Concrete Surrounding You

By Steve Carter, CPA, Principal
ASL Construction Group

When you see a cement mixer going down the street, or at a site getting ready to pour, do you think immediately of the effects upon our environment? I must confess, I have not. Until recently.

Cement is a major component of concrete. Cement is often referred to as the glue that holds concrete together. But cement is very harmful to our environment.  One ton of cement production releases one ton of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. With cement production currently at 2.8 billion tons per year, and expected to only increase, that is a lot of CO2 released into our already fragile atmosphere.

So what are some possible solutions?

Some concrete manufacturers are experimenting with different ingredients in their mixes. U.S. Concrete has low CO2 mixes, using fly ash to replace up to 50% of the required cement component.

Portland Cement Association claims that concrete can absorb CO2, making cement and concrete a “carbon sink” that can eventually negate the effects of the CO2 released during the production phase.

Another extremely interesting technology is an attempt to boost concrete’s sustainability factor. A Canadian company, Carbon Cure, has found a way to reduce CO2 emissions through the production of concrete itself. Their solution is to capture the CO2, and then inject it into the concrete during the mix process. The CO2 chemically reacts, actually becoming a mineral! So even when the concrete is demolished in the future, it will not be released back into the environment.

Let’s continue to work hard for solutions that can stabilize our environment, and produce safer ingredients that can meet our ever increasing building demand.