Low-Carbon Concrete: A Vital Challenge for Decarbonization

Published by Energy and Clime Partnership of the Americas: The average school or apartment building or skyscraper positively hums with energy, as occupants turn on air conditioners, fire up furnaces, or power an array of appliances, machines, and devices. All that activity emits a lot of carbon, of course, which is why improving energy efficiency is so important. But a less visible source of building emissions is also starting to attract more attention these days: the “embodied carbon” in the structure itself, a result of the carbon-intensive processes involved in producing construction materials in the first place.

“When jurisdictions have climate goals, they’re looking for ways to reduce emissions,” said Webly Bowles, who manages projects and does research at the New Buildings Institute (NBI), an organization that supports efforts to improve energy efficiency and decarbonize the built environment. In some cases, Bowles said in an interview, that may mean changing procurement policies to require a lower carbon content in concrete and other building materials.

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