July 15, 2024

Architectural Concepts Guide

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Front Line: Green Concrete Initiatives Fight Climate Change

3 min read

The cement industry generates about eight percent of global carbon emissions every year.

Cement is the binding agent in concrete. Although cement is only about 10 percent of concrete by volume, its production consumes a tremendous amount of thermal energy to break down limestone into lime, the key ingredient in cement, with the abundance of by-product CO2 released into the atmosphere.

In order to meet zero-carbon initiatives in coming years, some states are starting to pass CO2-reduction goals and timelines that their cement producers must meet in order to participate in state building projects.

In 2021 California passed broad-reaching climate legislation that requires its cement industry (second largest in the country) to reach net-zero carbon by 2045. In New York State, new rules will regulate CO2 limits on concrete used in state-funded public construction projects. For example, starting in 2025, environmental product declarations must be submitted for all concrete mixes to prove that they meet the environmental impact limits established by New York State.

In neighboring New Jersey, Governor Phil Murphy signed Bill S-287 into law in 2023, which provides corporation business tax or gross income tax credits to concrete manufacturers that provide low-carbon forms of concrete for state-funded construction projects.

“The bill gives concrete makers within New Jersey a credit of up to five percent of a project’s total concrete cost if they deliver materials with low levels of embodied carbon for state-funded projects requiring 50 cubic yards or more of concrete,” stated the New Jersey Business and Industry Association. “The measure also offers a tax credit of up to three percent of a project’s concrete cost to companies that deliver concrete made using carbon capture, utilization, and storage technology.” New Jersey will also offer tax credits for the costs of preparing environmental product declarations.

For large projects, the cost of green concrete is offset by the reduced volume of cement needed, making it no more expensive than conventional concrete.

Benefits of Green Concrete

One way to achieve reduced CO2 emissions is by manufacturing green concrete, which uses substitute materials for lime, including recycled concrete aggregates. “Instead of solely relying on cement, green concrete often integrates supplementary cementitious materials like fly ash or slag, which are by-products from other industries,” stated Green Building Elements, a news source for the construction industry. “This practice not only diverts waste from landfills but also reduces the overall carbon footprint.”

Green concrete is slightly more expensive than traditional concrete due to the inclusion of alternative eco-friendly materials and advanced manufacturing processes. “For large projects, the cost of green concrete is offset by the reduced volume of cement needed, making it no more expensive than conventional concrete,” stated Construction Executive magazine. Costs can be further reduced by incentives, tax credits, and significant energy savings.

Protecting the Future

“In order to meet our decarbonization goals, we will need new solutions and be able to address all areas of our economy,” said NJBIA Deputy Government Affairs Officer Ray Cantor. “We must also incentivize the business community to further use innovative products and processes. Bill S-287 does exactly that, by providing tax incentives to producers and developers to use low-carbon concrete.”


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