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Concrete institute launching low carbon building code

low carbon building code Reuters/Chen Jimin/China News Service/VCG
Cementing standards: The American Concrete Institute has announced what it claims is the first-ever low carbon building code
  • Standardising low carbon construction
  • Centre will verify builders’ methods
  • Mena cement is 35% more polluting

The American Concrete Institute is unveiling what it claims is the first-ever low carbon building code at the Cop28 climate conference.

Building codes are a set of rules that standardise the construction process. They have historically focused on safety and serviceability, but must now address sustainability needs, Antonio Nanni, a professor at the University of Miami said at the Big 5 Global conference in Dubai.

“Sustainability and durability, these are key issues that really can change the lifecycle assessment of our construction,” Nanni said. “The new code is not net zero yet, but it is low carbon.”

The announcement is part of a push by the American Concrete Institute (ACI) to help the industry lower its environmental footprint while cutting through the fog of greenwashing

The ACI established the NEU centre of excellence for carbon neutral concrete last year, and it is now examining companies’ claims that their cement-related products can indeed cut emissions.

“With all the concrete that’s made in the world, if I can develop the magic fairy dust to sprinkle in concrete that takes all of the CO2 emissions away, I can make tonnes of money,” Michael Tholen, ACI’s senior managing director for technical operations, told AGBI on Monday.  

“[Venture capital] expect a return on their money … and that brings a lot of pressure to maybe exaggerate what these products can do.” 

A November report by PwC’s Strategy& and consultancy Dar found that the built environment globally produces 40 percent of CO2 emissions. Cement production alone is responsible for 8 percent, according to Chatham House. 

The World Cement Association separately estimates that 7 percent of the world’s cement is produced in the Middle East and North Africa. And it is done so in a way that is 35 percent more polluting than the global average.

Regional governments in the past two years have set out ambitious net zero goals, prompting a race to find construction-focused solutions.

“There is a lot of noise,” Amr Nader, the chief executive of A³&Co, a Dubai-based cement industry advisory firm, said ahead of the Big 5 conference. “It sometimes takes trial and error to even know who is a good partner or not.”

NEU’s vetting of the datasets used to assert a product’s eco-friendly prowess is conducted on a voluntary basis and open to companies around the world.

“You might see claims that we will reduce the CO2 of your concrete by 20 percent, so we will look at that data and how the company came up with it,” Tholen said.

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