Interview: How Hard-Cem® Can Support Sustainable Construction
With all this industry focus on sustainable construction, there’s now a greater need to find construction materials that can contribute. After all, AEC professionals want to ensure their structures last as long as possible with the smallest carbon footprint.
Of course, not all products are capable of helping them reach that goal. It can be a challenge finding the right solution that can balance a project’s need for aesthetics, service life extension, and carbon reduction.
To help them meet this challenge for concrete structures, we offer our Hard-Cem admixture. It’s able to extend the life of structures without adding to the carbon emissions of a project and has been proven to do so. To show how that’s possible, we’ve turned to Alireza Biparva, one of our research and development department’s technical directors.
Thank you for joining us today, Ali! To start, can you tell us how Hard-Cem itself generally benefits sustainable construction?
To help comprehend this question, we must first answer a couple more questions. First, when concrete surfaces are prone to erosion, what is the impact on the sustainability of a project that does not employ materials like Hard-Cem? Then, we need to clarify the following question: what solutions are available to improve wear resistance? Ultimately, these will illustrate how Hard-Cem outperforms its competitors in terms of reducing environmental impact.
Let’s start with answering the first question.
Erosion and abrasion can cause significant wear and material loss over time due to the inherent weakness of cement paste, lowering the service life of concrete.
Concrete that is resistant to erosion and abrasion saves resources, minimizes waste, and reduces the environmental impact of repair and replacement. Hence, to maximize the service life and minimize environmental impacts, it is vital to have a reliable solution to protect concrete structures from erosion and abrasion.
Several products and techniques have been promoted as solutions, including increasing concrete strength, applying dry shake hardeners and liquid densifiers, and using Hard-Cem as an integral hardening admixture.
Getting into the specific details of comparing the environmental benefits of Hard-Cem versus its competitors may be beyond the scope of this interview.
But in brief, increasing the strength of the concrete results in the use of more cement, which is a significant source of CO₂ emissions when manufactured.
And both dry shake hardeners and liquid densifiers have environmental drawbacks. The main one is that they don’t have a noticeable effect on abrasion reduction, durability, and thus, the sustainability of structures.
In contrast, Hard-Cem can provide environmental benefits from the extraction of raw materials until the final disposal. Hard-Cem’s raw materials are 100% reclaimed industrial material. It is added to the concrete as an admixture, eliminating the need for application, and reduces health and safety liability. Increasing the service life of concrete structures through improved durability brings evident benefits in optimizing resources, decreasing repairs, and improving sustainability. Finally, Hard-Cem-treated concrete can be recycled at the end of a structure’s service life.
So, we know Hard-Cem does offer green benefits. But is there documentation available on how Hard-Cem meets certain sustainability standards like with the LEED framework?
Yes, several documents have been developed to highlight not just the environmental benefits of Hard-Cem but also to compare it to untreated concrete and other typical systems such as dry shake hardeners that are used for concrete hardening.
How was Hard-Cem validated for this sustainable construction documentation?
Edge Consultants’ accredited professional reviewed our Hard-Cem product documentation, which included the technical data sheet, safety data sheet, and environmental product declaration [EPD]. They then specified credits that Hard-Cem can potentially contribute to under the LEED building design and construction framework.
More specifically, what LEED credits could Hard-Cem contribute to?
Based on Edge Consultants’ review, Hard-Cem can contribute to the three main categories: sustainable sites, materials and resources, and indoor environmental quality. Besides, the incorporation of Hard-Cem can be a part of an innovative design strategy, demonstrating significant environmental performance and life-cycle impact reduction beyond the LEED rating system.
There’s also that EPD for Hard-Cem you mentioned not too long ago, which was recently published this year. How did that come about?
Designers and architects are increasingly expressing a desire to employ products that have a less negative environmental impact, requiring the development of documents such as an EPD, which quantifies these impacts. Overall, an EPD is a transparent method of disclosing information about a product’s environmental implications throughout its life cycle and the potential environmental and human health impacts of a product.
Hard-Cem’s EPD document can be considered a reliable and helpful supporting document that provides information about the environmental performance of Hard-Cem and can be used to compare it with other hardening products in order to select the most suitable product.
It sounds like it covers a comprehensive look at Hard-Cem, including details on its life cycle and impact assessments. Based on this information, how do you think professionals of all kinds who want sustainable construction could benefit from the admixture?
While each construction stakeholder has a particular interest and priority in the project, the preference for a sustainable design is having a product that, in addition to providing fundamental necessities, has the least environmental impact. Hard-Cem is one such product.
Because it is an additive, Hard-Cem enables an architect to employ this sustainable solution in any structure, with any shape, and with any type of concrete placement. Hard-Cem is also ideal for concrete producers as it can be added directly to the concrete with minimum effects on the properties of the concrete and is compatible with all other chemical and mineral admixtures. Contractors could employ it too as it performs well and is simple to use, allowing them to reduce field application challenges, speed up construction schedules, and lower health risks. Even owners can benefit from Hard-Cem by increasing their structure’s service life, reducing repair and maintenance expenses, and overall lowering service life costs.