Building with Low Carbon Cement is Affordable

industrial worker on construction site laying sealant for waterproofing cement Cement production accounts for around 5% of global CO2 emissions Credit: Thinkstock

Tackling climate change does not only involve drastically reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the energy supply sector or accelerating electro-mobility. Obligation for reductions of CO2 emissions also lies in various energy- and CO2 intensive industrial processes such as cement, steel and chemicals.

Recent studies looking at cement production, which accounts for around 5% of global CO2 emissions (ECA, 2018), show that costs associated with deep reductions in CO2 emissions from the sector will not significantly impact the final cost of buildings or renovation. One such study has shown that production costs for a residential building only increased by 1% when using zero carbon cement. The story is similar in the steel industry.

 

Cement is the primary component of concrete, a substance used virtually all around the globe in construction and civil engineering projects we use every day. In this respect, cement and cement production are linked closely to the global economy. Cement production is emission intensive with CO2 released not only from fuel use but from the chemical production process. These are known as process emissions and make up 60% of the sectors climate impact. Today, production of one tonne of cement will result in nearly one tonne of CO2 emitted.

Opportunities to mitigate CO2 emissions from the cement production can include the use of less carbon-intensive fuels (i.e. biomass, waste), which would reduce overall cement emissions by 18-24%. However, for traditional cement production CO2 emissions can only be substantially reduced with carbon capture and storage (CCS).

To limit the effects of climate change CO2 emissions will have to be reduced in emissions-heavy industries such as cement. Producing cement with very low climate impact will require additional manufacturing processes, consequently, the production costs are likely to increase.  Research shows that in the future climate-neutral cement is estimated to be about 70%-95% more expensive than today’s climate intensive cement (UNT, 2018). Nevertheless, given that cement and concrete tend to represent only a small fraction of the total production costs of buildings and other civil engineering projects, the final increases would be climate sustainable build could be small. Rootzen and Johnsson (2016), who assume a doubling of the cement cost, estimate that an average residential building using zero carbon concrete would add in region of 1% to the final cost.

As a society it is affordable to begin building and renovating with construction inputs that are climate friendly. We need low-carbon houses, commercial buildings and infrastructure to be a part of our low carbon world.

 

 

 

Sources:

Rootzen, J. & Johnsson, F. (2016). Managing the costs of CO2 abatement in the cement industry. Climate Policy. Available at: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14693062.2016.1191007?journalCode=tcpo20

Rootzen, J. & Johnsson, F. (2016b). Paying the full price of steel – Perspectives on the cost of reducing carbon dioxide emissions from the steel industry. Energy Policy. (98). p.459-469. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301421516304876

ECA. (2018). The role of cement in the 2050 low carbon economy. The European Cement Association. Available at: http://lowcarboneconomy.cembureau.eu/uploads/Modules/MCMedias/1380546575335/cembureau—executive-summary.pdf

UNT. (2018). Gör betongen klimatneutral. Available at: http://www.unt.se/asikt/debatt/gor-betongen-klimatneutral-4872542.aspx

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