Developing low carbon concrete is key for sustainable digital infrastructure

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Developing low carbon concrete is key for sustainable digital infrastructure

Cement, the key component of concrete and one of the most widely used manmade materials, is now the cornerstone of global construction. It is the most widely used man-made material in existence. It is second only to water as the most-consumed resource on the planet. It has shaped the modern landscape, but its production has a massive footprint that neither the industry nor governments have been willing to address.

But it also has a massive carbon footprint. It is the root of about 8% of the world’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, according to think tank Chatham House. It contributes more CO2 than aviation fuel (2.5%) and is not far behind the global agriculture business (12%).

“There are two ways in which buildings are responsible for greenhouse gases,” Bill Gates said in a recent blog. “The first is the construction phase: Buildings are made of concrete and steel, both of which produce a lot of emissions when they’re being made. In fact, these two materials accounts for around 10 per cent of the world’s annual greenhouse gases. And right now, we do not have practical ways to make either one without releasing carbon dioxide.”

The quest has been ongoing to develop technologies to mitigate against this carbon intensity of concrete. There are several companies around the world that are investigating how best to lower the carbon impact and one of these is CarbonCure Technologies, a Canadian cleantech company that develops carbon dioxide removal (CDR) solutions for the concrete industry. The company recently announced significant investment from a group that included several of the key players in developing digital infrastructure. The group includes Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund and Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV) co-led the investment syndicate comprising Microsoft, BDC Capital, 2150, Thistledown Foundation, Taronga Group, and GreenSoil Investments. 

The investment represents a commitment to tackling the carbon footprint of concrete, the most abundant human-made material in the world. Cement — the key ingredient that gives concrete its strength — is also one of the largest emitters of carbon dioxide in the built environment. 

“This collaborative investment by technology and property development firms is a great endorsement of CarbonCure as the go-to CDR solution for the growing tech construction space and the overall shift towards low embodied carbon construction materials,” Robert Niven, CEO and co-founder of CarbonCure Technologies, said. “We witnessed the tech industry setting climate change trends with their adoption of renewable energy sources like wind and solar. This investment in CDR signals a broader change for public and private infrastructure projects as industries and governments turn their focus toward the reduction of embodied carbon,” said Niven.

In 2019, Amazon co-founded the Climate Pledge, a commitment to be net-zero carbon by 2040 — 10 years ahead of the Paris Agreement. Amazon’s investment in CarbonCure aligns with this commitment. 

“We are excited to invest in CarbonCure, a company producing stronger, more sustainable concrete, which will help Amazon and other companies meet The Climate Pledge, a commitment to be net-zero carbon by 2040,” Kara Hurst, vice president of sustainability, Amazon. “We are looking forward to lowering the carbon footprint of many of our buildings by using CarbonCure concrete, including in Amazon’s HQ2 building in Virginia.” 

CarbonCure intends to use the capital investment to accelerate its product roadmap and geographical expansion to meet its goal of 500 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide annually from the concrete industry by 2030. “Our solutions help producers deliver low embodied carbon concrete in an efficient, non-disruptive, and profitable way,” Niven, said. “The latest investment presents a wonderful opportunity for the global concrete industry to capitalize on the increasing demand for sustainable concrete.”

CarbonCure is already used by nearly 300 concrete producers to supply low embodied carbon concrete to construction projects.

 

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