Concrete, concrete everywhere
Reducing CO2 Production
Amsterdam March 14th 2023— Whenever you travel and wherever you go and stroll between the towering apartment blocks of international cities like London, New York, Hong Kong, São Paulo or Singapore, famous for skyscrapers and brutalist complexes, everywhere you look you will see the grey, pockmarked façade of concrete.
Even the city’s more modern skyscrapers conceal a backbone made of something less glamorous behind their shiny exteriors – more of the same old concrete.
From this urban concrete jungle to the vast swathes of the world’s coastlines lined with concrete, concrete is arguably the material that best defines the Anthropocene.
And we’re using more of it almost every year. Soon there will be so much concrete in the world it will outweigh all living matter.
The problems that come with our extraordinary reliance on this material are many and varied. Blank stretches of concrete devoid of vegetation create biodiversity deserts. Concrete is also impervious to water, part of what makes it a great building material, but can lead to flooding in urban areas.
One of the biggest challenges for concrete is the sheer scale of its impact on the climate: about 8% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Cement, the component of concrete that acts as a binder to glue sand and stones together, is responsible for the bulk of concrete’s carbon emissions.
But what if we could turn these vast grey swathes of building material into something that actually helps the climate? Concrete that doesn’t emit carbon, and even absorbs it, is a crucial step along the way to sustainable construction.
I an upcoming series eyesonsuriname explores what it takes to turn concrete from a major carbon source into a carbon sink.