MECLA Spotlight on Concrete and Cement

Published 14 Mar 2022

By Alexi Barnstone, Project Officer - MECLA

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14 March 2022, Sydney – Cement manufacturing accounts for approximately 7% of global carbon emissions. To ensure a sustainable future the industry must make significant regulatory, technological, structural and behavioural changes across the entire concrete and cement value chain. To discuss the challenges, opportunities and pathways forward, MECLA hosted a Spotlight session on Concrete and Cement.

Key Takeaways

  • Cement manufacturing accounts for approximately 7% of global emissions and 5% of Australia’s emissions. Concrete is a ubiquitous product used right across our buildings and cities and we have to find solutions to if we are to decarbonise our cities and towns towards zero carbon. Thankfully the industry has taken the bull by the horns and in collaboration are exploring innovative opportunities to drive down carbon. The event covered some of these opportunities as well as the challenges.
  • The VDZ Decarbonisation pathways report identifies a number of ways to reduce carbon emissions to Net Zero in the concrete and cement sector. Findings show that the cooperation of the entire value chain is necessary.
  • Engaging with industry in the pre-design phase and also the use of high performance materials can reduce emissions through efficiency gains. This is the low hanging fruit and more can be done to explore these opportunities.
  • Increased use of supplementary cementitious materials (SCM) with lower carbon emissions can replace higher emitting materials and will play a critical role particularly in the use of waste products which is where the circular economy comes into its own.
  • One of the greatest challenges for driving deep decarbonisation is the role that standards and specifications play.  We heard that it can take roughly 15 years for material innovation to move from research to inclusion in design standards. How do we fast tract testing for durability to provide confidence to the industry?
  • Contractors have to carry more risk and costly delays if they wish to look at more innovative materials that deviate from specification standards.  This is a barrier to implementing these new materials in large infrastructure projects.
  • Performance based standards (PBS) rather than prescriptive specification is an important direction and the MECLA WG5b has established a PBS taskforce to help accelerate this process. Reach out to info@mecla.org.au for more information.

The MECLA Spotlight on Concrete and Cement drew a large audience and was met with broad support from participants. “The support that is being provided to accelerate change has increased dramatically,” Margie Thompson said. “I think the relationships and networks that are starting to form across the value chain are something that we haven’t seen before and MECLA is one of those key initiatives that has played a really key role just in terms of networking, for example, not to mention the great work program that is going to be created from the MECLA initiative.”

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