On-Site Magazine

Sustainable construction: building tomorrow’s world

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December 1, 2013 by Lyse Teasdale

From providing greater resilience in the face of more extreme weather events, to reducing emissions, to new, greener products, the cement and concrete industry is helping redefine the way we think about the construction of our roads, bridges, and buildings. This is good news for people who are concerned about safety, the environment and investment in public infrastructure.

Globally and in Canada, the cement and concrete industry has made—and continues to make significant investments to become more efficient, cleaner and increasingly focused on product-based solutions to sustainability challenges.

Earlier this fall, cement industry executives from around the world gathered in Vancouver with other experts and practitioners in sustainable construction for the CSI Forum 2013, where they discussed the latest advancements, issues and opportunities in this field.

Over the course of the two-day event themed “Sustainable Construction: Building Tomorrow’s World,” attendees engaged in a dialogue on several sustainable development issues close to heart for the cement industry, including:

  • Key industry strategies and achievements in reducing energy use and CO2 emissions;
  • Innovations, new technology and new best practices that increase the industry’s contribution to more sustainable, resilient communities, from lower carbon cement to carbon capture and reuse in
  • cement manufacturing, to transparent concrete, among others;
  • Sustainable construction success stories in municipal, institutional, commercial and residential settings; and
  • The increasing importance of a resilient built environment in the face of climate change and increasing urbanisation.

Committed to sustainable construction

In Canada and abroad, the cement industry continues to innovate and invest in reducing GHGs from cement manufacturing and by producing lower-carbon cement and concrete. Innovations include: research into low-carbon clinker; substituting traditional fossil
fuels with low-carbon fuels; investing in projects such as carbon capture and reuse through microalgae growth; photo-catalytic
concrete with smog-eating, self-cleaning performance; and permeable concrete for storm water management.

Green building is big business

The financial case for green building is now well established. In Canada green buildings command rent and occupancy rates 6 per cent higher and achieve 14 per cent savings on operating costs over traditional construction, according to research from the CaGBC.

The rapidly increasing demand for a sustainable built environment is increasing the scrutiny placed on what materials are used in the construction and refurbishment of buildings and infrastructure. For that reason, Life Cycle Assessments (LCA) are becoming more
critical and need to be conducted as early as the design phase of the project. Rigorous, truthful, science-based LCA tools have
become critical for making the best decisions for our economy, the environment and society at large.

However, these tools must expand beyond their current focus on traditional sustainability metrics to take account for our need to adapt to climate change, as one cannot discuss sustainability today without taking resilience into consideration.

While sustainability is about mitigating climate change by reducing CO2, resilience is about adapting to the reality of climate change, about making our infrastructures and communities better prepared to withstand catastrophic events and bounce back more quickly.

Resilience is particularly key to cities given the large concentration of people who live in urban environments. In fact, leading
cities are seizing the concept of resilience to think differently about their infrastructure decisions. After hurricane Sandy, and closer to home, the devastating flood in Calgary, municipalities are bringing the concept of resilience to the fore and leading the conversation.

In this new reality, it more important than ever for the construction industry to communicate the value that cement and concrete materials bring to the sustainability and resiliency imperative.

Lyse Teasdale is director of communications for the Cement Association of Canada and a partner of the Canadian Ready Mixed Concrete Association. Send comments to editor@on-sitemag.com.

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1 Comment » for Sustainable construction: building tomorrow’s world
  1. Green building has the potential to revolutionize the construction sector. Construction is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. According to some studies https://gocontractor.com/blog/green-construction/, buildings are responsible for 18% of total CO2 emissions globally. One of the biggest burdens is the amount of energy required to construct buildings. The aim of green construction is not only to reduce damage but to create buildings that have a positive impact on the environment. Eventually, all construction will be green construction. The effects will be felt not just in the industry but across society as a whole.

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