One cubic yard of concrete is poured for every person in the world each year, according to The Concrete Producer blog. However, until now, there has been little evaluation of its environmental effects.
The UW Carbon Leadership Forum (CLF) is shaping national policy through its recent development of new testing standards for concrete that could lead to a greener building sector.
Industry professionals and UW faculty developed these standards, known as product category rules, to compare the carbon footprints of different types of concrete.
“It’s important to understand the environmental footprint of building materials,” said Kate Simonen, UW assistant professor of architecture and CLF director. “We tend to think of our carbon footprint related to transportation, like riding a bike instead of driving a car, and that part of it is important. But products are a huge environmental impact as well.”
Concrete has a negative environmental impact primarily due to the cement that it contains. The process of making cement involves burning coal and tires, which emits harmful gas into the environment and uses a lot of energy.
There were already methods in place to make concrete environmentally greener, such as using ash from a coal-fired power plant, known as fly ash. Until now, there was no way to know exactly how green it was.