Cement Users Bring Accountability To Climate Change Regulatory Pilot

A model for concrete producers to document greenhouse gas emissions from cement, aggregate and admixture supply chains through production and job site

Don Marsh, Editor

A model for concrete producers to document greenhouse gas emissions Û from cement, aggregate and admixture supply chains through production and job site delivery Û is shaping up in a time-tested proving ground for environmental regulations. San Mateo, Calif.-based Webcor Builders, a major West Coast general contractor and concrete subcontractor, is representing construction interests in the Greenhouse Gas Protocol Initiative. A global accounting pilot launched last month under the World Resources Institute (WRI) and World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), it encourages voluntary reporting of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions.

Protocol participation follows reporting Webcor has implemented as a California Climate Action Registry Leader. Emissions-reduction efforts have included work with San Jose-based Central Concrete Supply, which documents lower carbon factors attributable to the use of fly ash and other supplementary cementitious materials as a substitute for portland cement. Webcor Manager of Sustainability Todd Lukesh notes that concrete suppliers will need to cite carbon factors in future project submittal packages. That directive parallels Building Information Modeling (BIM) integration Webcor has instituted for precasters and steel fabricators bidding on jobs using the (post-CAD) three-dimensional technology.

In addition to BIM adoption and GHG Protocol participation, Webcor ranks among early construction users of enterprise carbon accounting (ECA). Recognized across many industries, ECA is a business system for quantifying carbon impact data useful for managerial and voluntary reporting. Webcor and Central Concrete subscribe to the ECA methods of Climate Earth, a San Francisco firm that tracks carbon emissions across a supply chain. Climate Earth’s accounting system includes an emissions data library for individual materials, products and services, plus U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Economic Analysis industry input/output data. An ECA yields metrics like carbon intensity (carbon output/dollar of sales) of facilities, materials and products.

ECA’s advent dovetails with the GHG Protocol’s anticipation of carbon dioxide emissions regulation. Webcor and Essroc Cement parent Italcementi Group are among 60 corporate GHG Protocol participants. Like other multinational producers, Italcementi maintains greenhouse gas accounting for WBCSD’s Cement Sustainability Initiative; its Cement Technology Roadmap 2009 Û Carbon emissions reductions up to 2050, details how the worldwide industry’s CO2 output could be lowered by 18 percent from current levels over the next four decades.

Webcor and Italcementi appear to be the lone construction-related entities in the GHG Protocol pilot, whose strong private sector response was reflected in 120 applications across a broad array of sectors and regions worldwide. WRI President Jonathan Lash notes, Road testing will provide critical input ensuring [Product Life Cycle and Value Chain] standards generate credible and meaningful data for business and government decision makers, while considering the practical challenges that face businesses and programs.

Where cement, concrete and construction interests and the WRI/WBCSD initiative are concerned, competent operators like Webcor Builders and Italcementi Group represent voices of reason on a sensitive, complex subject dominating global regulatory dialog.