According to the World Green Building Council, buildings are responsible for 39 per cent of all the world’s carbon emissions related to energy consumption. And within this headline figure, 28 per cent of emissions come from the ongoing operation of buildings, such as the need to heat, cool, and light them, while a further 11 per cent are related to materials and construction.
Construction is therefore an extremely important sector in relation to broader decarbonisation efforts and the push to limit global greenhouse gas emissions to 1.5 degrees Celsius. And, while there is still a lot of work to do to deliver truly sustainable construction, there is no shortage of innovative solutions.
Most of us are aware of the environmental harm cause by the use of concrete – around 8 per cent of all global carbon emissions are due to the use of this common material. Given the ubiquity of its use, it’s clear that achieving net zero is going to involve somehow reducing the impact of concrete and its main component – cement. Finnish company Carbonaide is working to achieve this with a carbon-negative concrete
Concrete is a mixture of aggregate (small stones), and a paste made from cement and water. Through a chemical reaction, the cement and water hardens and gains strength to form concrete. The problem is that creating cement requires heating limestone and other ingredients to a very high heat – which takes a lot of energy. Carbonaide’s solution involves the development of an efficient method to bind carbon dioxide into precast concrete using an automated system.
This method operates at atmospheric pressure and reduces the amount of cement required to produce concrete. The company claims its technology can halve the CO2 emissions of traditional Portland cement-based concrete. In addition, the precast concrete component can include industrial side streams, such as industry slags and bio-ash, further reducing the carbon footprint.
The company’s process can permanently store and remove CO2 from the carbon cycle – making it carbon negative. Tapio Vehmas, CEO of Carbonaide, explains that the company has, “demonstrated in the pilot unit that our technology is capable of reducing the CO2 emissions of conventional concrete by 45 per cent. Last autumn, we demonstrated lowering our products’ carbon footprint to -60 kg/m3 by replacing Portland cement with slag.”
At Springwise, we have seen a wide range of innovations that focus on reducing the environmental impact of concrete. These have included a concrete designed to be covered in moss, to provide cleaner air, and a carbon-negative cement that uses rocks instead of limestone.
Written By: Lisa Magloff
image by Marten Bjork unsplash
Carbonaide was spun out from the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. The company has recently raised €1.8 million in a Seed funding round led by Lakan Betoni and Vantaa Energy, along with public loans and contributions from Finnish concrete companies and strategic investors. The company’s goal is to set up ten operational units by 2026. This would allow it to bind around 500 megatonnes of carbon dioxide annually by 2050 and supply about 10–20 per cent of the concrete market. This would make quite an impact on the emission from global concrete use and could go some way to helping the construction industry achieve net zero.