Concrete Sustainability Hub looks to economy, environment in decade two

Sources: Massachusetts Institute of Technology; RMC Research & Education Foundation, Portland Cement Association, Alexandria, Va.; CP staff

The Ready Mixed Concrete Research & Education Foundation and Portland Cement Association have marked the Massachusetts Institute of Technology-hosted Concrete Sustainability Hub’s 10th anniversary with a five-year, $10 million commitment and eye to solutions for economic, environmental, and social challenges.

“On a per-unit-weight basis, concrete is a low environmental impact material. There is a significant opportunity to look at how we balance both its role in sustainable development and lower its environmental impact,” says CSHub Executive Director Jeremy Gregory. “We have done a lot of work in the past two phases on technical aspects. What we are trying to do in this next phase is to conduct research that will engage the broader public by leveraging crowd sourced data, artificial intelligence, and the latest tools of data science.”

He cites one Phase III project already in development: Carbin, a smartphone-ready app that can record pavement quality from within a moving vehicle. Through crowd sourcing, it has captured data on over 130,000 miles of roads across the world. The data will eventually support decisions on infrastructure maintenance at a lower cost than that of traditional technologies, like laser scanning.

“Taking CSHub’s work to the next level will not only help us achieve our goal of making concrete more sustainable, but also continue to strengthen our communities by providing designers, owners, and policymakers with the best information and tools available to make the best choices for their construction projects,” notes RMC Foundation Executive Director Julie Garbini.

“With the CSHub now entering its third phase, we are excited about the opportunities this close industry-academia collaboration brings to MIT, the concrete industry, and society at large,” adds Civil and Environmental Engineering Professor Markus Buehler. “Applying cutting-edge, fundamental research to problems in industry has the potential for large-scale impact.”