Portland Cement Association is raising awareness of the sustainability, resiliency and durability of concrete through bold, compelling stories of how the material makes the world a better place. The Shaped by Concrete campaign, launched just ahead of last month’s World of Concrete show in Las Vegas, will focus on key themes often overlooked and underrepresented in conversations and media coverage of cement and concrete, including their ability to meet sustainable development goals, decrease costs from natural disasters, and assist with key societal challenges, such as our nation’s housing crisis.
“As we prepare for the challenges future generations face, concrete will be even more critical to building a sustainable world for tomorrow,” says PCA President Mike Ireland. “Concrete is the most durable, resilient, available and affordable material in the built environment, supporting sustainable economic, social and environmental development priorities, and the Shaped by Concrete campaign is how we’ll tell that story to stakeholders and partners.”
“The industry has made major progress toward making concrete more sustainable, and it continues to push the boundaries of energy efficiency and emissions reductions through new research, technology and innovations,” adds Jeremy Gregory, executive director of the Concrete Sustainability Hub at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “Concrete will play a critical role in further decarbonization of the built environment, and I’m excited to see the stories of those advancements from ‘Shaped by Concrete’.”
Campaign content will explore how cement and concrete shape the world around us to make communities, cities and country better. With impacts from climate change, growing populations and accelerating urbanization creating demand for safe, affordable housing, PCA officials notes, there has never been a more important time to explain how and why concrete became—and continues to be—the material of choice for virtually every type of construction. Takeaways from campaign messages will include well established facts and metrics, positioning concrete as:
- The most widely used man-made material, second only to water as the most-consumed resource on Earth. Once mixed, it can be molded into nearly any shape or use. As a sustainable building material, concrete affords energy efficiency, lower life-cycle costs and resilience following natural or man-made disasters.
- A low-impact, preeminent solution. The amount of energy consumed to extract, refine, process, transport and fabricate, as well as the amount of carbon to produce is lower than other building materials. Because of its unmatched characteristics, availability and ease of delivery and placement, concrete is used in a significantly larger portion of construction than other materials.
- Carbon capturing. In a permanent capture process known as carbonation, exposed concrete in buildings and transportation or pedestrian slabs continually absorbs carbon from the atmosphere, offsetting emissions from its initial production and finishing. Cement and concrete enable emissions reductions in other industries too. Concrete is an excellent insulator, keeping buildings warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer, thereby reducing building operating phase emissions. When used as a pavement, concrete has a much longer lifespan than other materials, requiring less maintenance and ensuring smooth, stiff roads, which in turn improve vehicle fuel efficiency.
- Emissions reduction prone. Not content with the relatively low impact of the concrete slabs and structures produced from the bulk of their output, America’s cement producers have undertaken significant efforts to aggressively address climate change impacts. A strong, industry-wide culture of innovation has led to a 35 percent reduction in the amount of energy used to produce a metric ton of cement over the last 47 years. Company-driven improvements have also led to the increased use of alternative fuels; primarily industrial byproducts that would otherwise end up in landfills, such sources now represent more than 15 percent of total U.S. cement plant energy consumption.
- Creating a resilient and prosperous nation. Concrete structures play a critical role in making communities stronger and safer. Of all construction materials for buildings and other infrastructure, concrete is by far the most disaster-resilient. Concrete improves durability of structures because it doesn’t burn, rust or rot, and is resistant to natural disasters including fire, wind, water and vibrations. This is especially important in the face of increasing numbers of catastrophic weather events, where safe shelter during and after disasters can mean the difference between life and death. That increased durability also provides economic benefits, especially in disaster-prone areas: Every $1 spent on resilient building and construction can save $6 in recovery costs according to a recent study by the National Institute of Building Sciences. Considering that in 2017, the 16 largest weather events each caused over $1 billion in damage, savings from resilient concrete construction can quickly scale up.
- Economic growth driver. Cement and concrete production directly or indirectly employs approximately 600,000 people in the U.S., and the collective industries contribute approximately $100 billion to our economy. Ultimately, durable, reliable infrastructure enables a productive, prosperous society and is a critical part of meeting civilization’s needs.
- Legacy architectural, public works common thread. The country’s most significant investments in infrastructure, transportation, culture and development were built with cement and concrete. Infrastructure projects like the Hoover Dam and the Los Angeles aqueduct helped shape the Western United States. World-class museums, such as the Guggenheim in New York are as stunning on the outside as the master works are on the inside. And the country’s transportation system, from the Metro in our nation’s capital to the many airports that connect our world, show how cement and concrete are part of everyday life.
“From national security concerns to durability and safety in the face of natural and man-made disasters to enabling economic growth, cement and concrete make our communities more resilient,” affirms PCA Chairman and Continental Cement President Tom Beck. “‘Shaped by Concrete’ will help our industry show these important benefits and ensure cement and concrete continue to keep our nation safe, secure and prosperous.”
PCA has hired communications consultancy APCO Worldwide to help with the campaign in the United States. The firm has also been retained by the Global Cement and Concrete Association to help craft a companion, worldwide message. —
SLAG CEMENT CONSUMPTION ON THE RISE
Slag cement shipments remain on the rise, as 2019 saw a 10.8 percent increase over 2018 totals; marked a fourth consecutive year of double-digit percentage growth; and, capped a five-year period in which deliveries across the United States climbed from 2.43 million to 3.82 million metric tons. The Slag Cement Association attributes the gain in part to the material’s measurable benefits in concrete, including better workability and finishability, thermal stress reduction, higher compressive and flexural strength development, and improved resistance to aggressive chemicals.
“We have seen a substantial increase in slag cement use as concrete professionals become more and more familiar with the product,” says SCA President Ed Griffith. “The Association is here to be a resource for those in the industry who want to capitalize on the use of slag cement for its durable, sustainable, and resilient properties.