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Concrete and Climate Change

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The heat is on to reduce concrete’s carbon footprint and Bill Gates is pushing alternative cements and carbon injection.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates has been everywhere recently talking about ways to fight climate change; and reducing the carbon footprint of portland cement is at the top of his list. First, I saw him on 60 Minutes and then heard him on the radio on MarketplaceThis is an issue in the concrete industry that isn't going to go away, as we discussed during the WOC360 Virtual Forum..

Gates, who’s also co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and founder of Breakthrough Energy, a coalition of groups that work toward speeding up the arrival of a sustainable energy system, discussed alternative, low-carbon cements on Marketplace. Getting these cements into use in developing countries will be key. “The world is going to keep building buildings just for basic sheltering needs in developing countries,” he said. “And so we can’t ask them to stop doing that, but we need to give them an innovation so that that cement isn’t superexpensive.”

On 60 Minutes, he had a similar message but referred directly to Carbon Cure as one solution in which he has invested. He said that this technology, where CO2 is injected directly into the concrete mix, can reduce concrete’s carbon footprint by 30%. Gates has “already invested $2 billion into green technology and plans to spend several billion more.” You can watch the video here.

And then I came across this article in Fortune, “From concrete to steel, how construction makes up the ‘last mile’ of decarbonization.” This piece is also inspired by Gates and extensively quotes Jeremy Gregory from the MIT Concrete Sustainability Hub, who discusses the use of alternatives to portland cement but notably does not advocate doing away with concrete, just making it better.

To hear more about concrete’s role in a sustainable world, watch Gregory’s interview with Rick Yelton during the WOC 360 Virtual Industry Forum (How Concrete is Contributing to a Sustainable and Resilient World). If you haven’t already, you’ll need to register, but it’s FREE and there are 18 different sessions to choose from covering everything innovative in the concrete and masonry industries, from technology to industrial floors to business practices. Making our products more sustainable is becoming a necessity!

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