The Cement Industry: Paving its way Towards a Carbon Neutral Future

   It’s no secret that the cement industry has a dirty past, emitting nearly 5% of global CO2 emissions. Why is that? Because traditionally, in order to make cement you heat up limestone in a kiln which is powered by fossil fuels (primarily coal) and when you heat up limestone, it off- gases a lot of CO2. But that isn’t the whole story, what people might not realize is that after cement is manufactured, it naturally sequesters CO2 from the atmosphere in a process called “carbonation”. Since no two batches of cement are 100% identical, carbonation rates vary considerably with concrete properties, which also change depending on where in the world the materials originated. Yet on a global average, roughly a third of cement’s process emissions are re-absorbed within the first two years, and over the course of decades, this number rises to 48%. But the cement industry won’t settle for reduced carbon emission they want net-zero. In the past ten years Jeffery Rissman’s research, CarbonCure Technologies Inc., and DeCristofaro chief technologies officer of Solidia Technologies have collectively made huge advancements in carbon sequestrating, making the cement industry a solution instead of a problem in the fight against climate change.

   

   Accountability

   Jeffrey Rissman is the Industry Program Director and Head of Modeling at Energy Innovation. He leads modeling efforts for the firm’s Energy Policy Solutions to determine the policies that most effectively help meet climate and energy goals. In a Green Biz article, Rissman highlights some of the policies that could incentivize the cement industry to reach a carbon-negative future. One of the suggested policies was carbon pricing, such as a carbon tax that gives cement makers a financial incentive to install carbon capturing equipment and make other innovative upgrades to their facilities. Along that same vein, Rissman proposes government research and development support that drives down the cost of new technologies, new biofuels and techniques for electrical generation of the high temperatures used to heat the kiln in the cement-making process. Lastly, one of the most important things the cement industry lacks is industrial process emissions standards and energy efficiency standards. Holding the industry accountable for the emissions they emit will drive the industry to grow in new ways and ultimately make it more profitable.

   Process

   Although most of us would like industrial emitters to stop producing CO2 all together, the reality is that it will probably be a long time before we see an emission free industrial revolution. We can also be certain that this process will not happen overnight. So the question is how to we deal with this situation in the mean time? CarbonCure is a company leading a global movement to reduce the carbon footprint of the built environment, using recycled CO2 to improve the manufacturing process of the world’s most abundant man-made material, concrete. CarbonCure uses CO2 sourced from industrial emitters as an ingredient in the concrete mixing process, creating a more sustainable masonry product with a lower carbon footprint. As mentioned above, concrete already sequesters CO2 naturally, but by adding it into the mix before it even has a chance to cure greatly increases the amount of CO2 it traps. Furthermore, the patented CarbonCure Technology is retrofitted into existing concrete plants in a single day, making the transition to a lower carbon footprint seamless for the industry.

How is it done?

   A computer takes care of executing the proportions of CO2 to cement ratio, insuring that each batch is consistent and has the optimal properties for making a sustainable product. Once the CO2 is injected into the wet concrete mix, the CO2 reacts with the calcium ions from the limestone in the cement mixture. As this process is happening the CO2 is chemically changing to calcium carbonate which becomes permanently embedded in the concrete. Since the CO2 was chemically changed into a mineral, this ensures that the CO2 will never be released back into the atmosphere. Moving forward, companies like CarbonCure should be an example of how an ancient process can be improved for modern times.

   Revised Recipe

   Much like CarbonCure, Solidia Technologies wanted to reduce the carbon footprint of the cement industry, and achieved that through a different approach. Solidia Technologies came up with a new recipe for cement that uses less limestone, and more clay lowering the amount of heat needed (less fossil fuels) to process the materials and amount of CO2 initially off-gassed. Solidia Technologies new cement also needs to sequester carbon in order to cure, greatly increasing the amount of carbon it captures throughout its lifecycle.

The Bigger Picture

   Accountability, innovation, and drive to make a more sustainable future is the current path of the cement industry. People build with concrete because it typically last two to three times longer than other common building materials, its versatile (can be used for foundations, walls, floors etc.), and has a greater thermal mass, meaning it is more energy efficient because of its ability to absorb and retain heat. For all of these reasons, concrete is one of the world’s most used building materials. This material is here to stay, but the process and recipe is evolving to make the future of our built environment, as well as our natural one, a better place to live in.

Written by Allison Devlin

Disasters Don’t Have to be Devastating

In the past six months there have been devastating natural disasters here in America and abroad. We accept the tragedies that natural disasters bring as unavoidable and inevitable, but we don’t have to. We don’t have to lose our schools, hospitals, businesses, and homes, that much is preventable. Consumers have to demand more from the construction industry. They have to speak up and say, “Stop building me a house that keeps falling down, burning, molding, getting termites, etc. Build me something better. Build me something with Insulated Concrete Forms.”

The picture above shows ICF homes in a San Diego Suburb still standing after a wildfire swept through the area1.

We have to think critically and ask ourselves, why haven’t we learned from our mistakes? Why do we keep building with wood? A recent article in the Los Angeles Times reports, “The Wine Country wildfires destroyed at least 8,400 structures”2. If any other industry made products that continually failed, consumers would demand innovation, especially if that product was essential to your everyday life. ICF is that innovation in the building industry, and Forming Solutions is here to supply it.

The Time to Educate is Now

Forming Solutions is here to help contractors, architects, homeowners, business owners, and investors, take initiative and educate themselves on a better way to build. If people don’t, a considerable amount of the reconstruction in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, Spain, Portugal, and The Wine Country will be rebuilt using conventional stick frame methods, perpetuating the cycle of destruction whenever disaster strikes. With all of the unthinkable misfortune that came with these disasters, societies now have the opportunity to rebuild in a way that can prevent an incident like this in the future.

ICF Disaster Facts

Insulated Concrete Forms perform excellent in fire rating tests. In these tests ICF walls were subject to continuous gas flames and temperatures of up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit for four hours. None of the ICF walls ever failed structurally3. Unlike wood, concrete doesn’t burn. Therefore, an ICF structure is less likely to spread fires as well. In addition, ICF structures can withstand winds over 200 mph and projectile debris traveling over 100mph4. ICF is also a great option for structures in areas prone to flooding. ICF is water resistant due to the non-absorbent nature of the expanded polystyrene (EPS) that is used in the insulated concrete formwork5. Hurricanes, tornados, floods, and fires will continue to happen, but we can make them less devastating. Forming Solutions wants people to keep their homes, businesses, and livelihoods after trying times, such as natural disasters. Meet us halfway and choose ICF for your next building project.

This ICF home is still standing even though Hurricane Katrina caught it mid-construction6.

1 “Survivor Stories.” Floridagreenconstruction.us. Accessed October 25, 2017.
2 Vives, Ruben, and Richard Winton. “Fire loss total surges to 8,400 structures in Northern California.” Latimes.com. October 23, 2017. Accessed October 24, 2017.
3 “Fire Resistance of Concrete Homes.” Forms.org. Accessed October 24, 2017.
4 “ICFs and Severe Weather.” Foxblocks.com. Accessed October 24, 2017.
5 “Flood Resistant Design.” Nuduraicfs.co.uk. Accessed October 24, 2017.
6 “Katrina_web.” Icfdirect.net. Accessed November 7, 2017.

 

Written by Allison Devlin

 

Built to Last Over a Century

Sustainable. A cliché we hear too often, yet never enough in a meaningful way.

Wood is considered by many to be a sustainable building material. However, wood is deemed sustainable almost solely because it’s renewable. In reality, it’s not an ideal building material and certainly not meant to “sustain” itself for very long. Wood is susceptible to mold, rot, termites, fires and natural disasters. It almost never lives up to its true longevity due to its incapacity to cope with environmental factors. As a result, more natural resources are used to re-build, adding to the fifteen billion trees cut down annually.¹ On the other hand, ICF structures will last at least two hundred years with minimal maintenance.² In addition, ICF has a four-hour fire rating and is termite and pest resistant.³ If everyone in America chose to build with ICF, U.S. property owners would save over five billion dollars alone from avoiding termite damage.4

Additional Factors of Sustainability

Here at Forming Solutions, we understand that sustainability isn’t just about making things that last. There are several factors to consider when determining the sustainability of a product. For example, one should speculate energy efficiency, manufacturing process, installation, and the disposal of byproduct waste.

Energy Efficiency– ICF structures are inherently energy efficient due to their Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) core, which gives ICFs an R Value of 30-60 depending on the thickness of the core.5 This translates to property owners using 44% less energy to heat and 32% less energy to cool the interior of a structure verses a traditional stick-frame building.6

Manufacturing ProcessEPS it is made from styrene, a by-product of crude oil extraction. No oil is extracted solely for EPS production. See the graph below for a breakdown.7

Installation– We use ICF base, a company that connects the best concrete specialists, general contractors, architects, dealers, engineers, and installers, all specializing in ICF. Essentially, they make ICF dream teams specifically for your area, to make an ICF project an easy success. Keeping everything local reduces the need for transportation and limits carbon emissions, but it also helps build a trusted network with people in your own community.

Waste– Since ICF is made from high grade EPS, it is one hundred percent recyclable. We take the scrap foam and number six plastic webs from sites we have worked with and deliver it to Marko Foam in Irvine. Marko Foam then recycles our EPS into surfboard blanks.8 In short, we are recycling a waste product of crude oil.


¹ Worland, Justin. “Here’s How Many Trees Humans Cut Down Each Year.” Time. September 02, 2015. http://time.com/4019277/trees-humans-deforestation/.
² “Insulating Concrete Forms (ICF’s).” Builderswebsource.com. June 30, 2012. http://www.builderswebsource.com/techbriefs/about_icfs.htm.
³ “ICF Construction on Fire Resistant Homes.” Foxblocks.com. June 23, 2014. http://www.foxblocks.com/news/.
4 “The Real Facts about Termite Damage.” American Pests. January 21, 2015. https://www.americanpest.net/blog/post/the-real-facts-about-termite-damage.
5 “ICF Energy Efficiency .” ICF Base. https://www.icfbase.com/learn/icf-energy-efficiency/.
6 “ICF Facts.” ICF Homes. http://www.icfhomes.com/DYKpages/dykFACTS.htm.
7 “How Expanded Polystyrene is Manufactured.” http://www.rmax.com.au/manufacture.html.
8 “Marko Foam x Forming Solutions.” Forming Solutions. https://formingsolutionsicf.com/building-green/marko-foam-x-forming-solutions/.

 

Written by Allison Devlin