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Image courtesy Snøhetta

Buildings

Snøhetta & Saferock Turn Mining Waste Into Zero-Carbon Concrete

Internationally renowned Norwegian architecture and design company Snøhetta has teamed up with Norwegian startup Saferock to develop a zero-carbon concrete for use in construction. This is big news considering the level of carbon emissions of the construction industry; currently, cement production is responsible for 8% of global carbon emissions. In order to meet the targets set by the Paris agreement, the amount of carbon emissions that are produced during the production of concrete will need to be significantly reduced.

The good news is that the method developed by Snøhetta and Saferock produces much less carbon emissions than traditional techniques, and that by 2025 the whole process will be carbon neutral. The progress has been made by focusing on producing geopolymer concrete, a manufactured molecular material formed from the waste minerals that are a by-product of the mining industries and power plants.

At the moment, Portland cement is the most common type of cement and it is used as the basic ingredient of concrete. It is estimated that the new geopolymer method produces 70% less carbon than Portland cement. This is a huge reduction, and if the production of the material can be scaled to replace the use of Portland cement, then the total impact on carbon emissions will be massive. To put it in context, aviation fuel is responsible for 2.5% of carbon emissions and agriculture is responsible for 12.5%. At 8%, the emissions from cement production sit in between these two, showing the size of its footprint and the huge potential that geopolymers have for bringing this figure down.

The lower carbon footprint is not the only benefit of the new geopolymer technique — geopolymers possess a higher temperature and chemical resistance as well as significantly lower permeability. The fact that this is all generated from industrial waste materials that would otherwise be disposed of makes it even more advantageous.

In a statement from Snøhetta and Saferock, the team said: “The first step of the research project is to pilot and scale up the development of tomorrow’s building materials in the form of low emission concrete. The next step will be to ensure that the technology and materials are a part of a circular ecosystem. This will truly impact the industry’s environmental footprint.”

They then go on to outline the future vision for the partnership: “By 2025, the aim is to produce fully CO2 neutral concrete. The project is in line with Snøhetta’s mission to reduce the environmental footprint of the building industry, and to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable building materials.”

It’s a bold vision and plan, and exactly what is needed if we are to stand a chance of effectively reducing global carbon emissions.

Image courtesy Snøhetta

 
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Written By

Jonny Tiernan is a Publisher and Editor-In-Chief based in Berlin. A regular contributor to The Beam and CleanTechnica, he primarily covers topics related to the impact of new technology on our carbon-free future, plus broader environmental issues. Jonny also publishes the Berlin cultural magazine LOLA as well as managing the creative production for Next Generation Living Magazine.

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