Interview: What Building Sustainably Looks Like for Concrete Structures and How to Achieve It
Building sustainably: there are many ways to go about it. (We’ve even discussed some ourselves right here on this blog!) But naturally, you might wonder which way is best for you.
If you’re in the concrete industry, it might feel especially critical now. After all, many professional organizations within the industry are more heavily promoting sustainable construction. And many are also establishing their own way to contribute to reaching net-zero concrete by 2050.
So, how should you contribute? And what does that even look like?
To shed some light on these questions and more, we’ve interviewed Kryton Vice President of Product Development Kevin Yuers.
Thank you for joining us today, Kevin! Let’s start off with defining what building sustainably even looks like for concrete structures.
Building sustainable concrete structures means doing two things well. First of all, you need to build from the start with the smallest carbon footprint possible. Secondly, you need to build structures that last through their entire design without needing to be replaced or receive unnecessary repairs.
We know that concrete is a very durable building material. But we also know that its key ingredient — cement — has a very large carbon footprint.
So, it sounds like cement adds to the carbon footprint of concrete. Why is that?
You may have heard that for every ton of cement produced, a ton of CO₂ is released.
Now, this is not exactly true anymore because cement manufacturers have made great improvements to their production processes and reduced this number by more than a third. But it is still a big number.
Most of the CO₂ released is simply the result of the chemical reaction of turning limestone into cement, and there’s little that can be done about that.
What can be done is reducing the amount of cement you actually use in your concrete.
How can construction professionals reduce their use of cement?
Typically, the way that a concrete producer will increase the strength and durability of their concrete is to just add more cement. But there are ways to avoid that.
So, for example, many of our customers build concrete structures that are exposed to very abrasive environments, such as industrial floors, high-traffic slabs, and hydroelectric spillways. Instead of using cement-rich concrete to improve abrasion resistance, our customers add our Hard-Cem solution, an abrasion-resisting admixture.
This technology increases abrasion resistance without increasing cement content, lowering your initial carbon footprint. And because the concrete lasts more than twice as long with Hard-Cem, it can eliminate the need to replace worn-out concrete. What could be more sustainable than that?
What about countering other obstacles to a concrete’s life span like corrosion?
I can’t think of anything that contributes more to the deterioration of concrete structures than corrosion. Preventing corrosion should be a key consideration for any designer of concrete structures — especially infrastructure projects.
Again, we have to ask ourselves: what can be done to extend the life of this structure without increasing its carbon footprint right off the bat by adding more cement?
It turns out that the crystalline waterproofing admixture technology invented by Kryton in 1980 is an answer to this challenge for many structures.
Our admixture for concrete, Krystol Internal Membrane (KIM), is used today all over the world to replace membranes in water-retaining structures, basements, tunnels, and the like. But one of its lesser known advantages is its ability to delay or prevent the corrosion of reinforcing steel, which is especially a problem in places where reinforced concrete is exposed to salt like marine structures or transportation structures in cold climates.
KIM sounds like a perfect remedy for that. How does it work?
You may have heard of emerging smart technologies in building materials. These are materials that can react autonomously to events or changes in their environment by repairing themselves. Such self-healing or self-sealing is one of the ways that KIM works to protect concrete from leaks and corrosion.
If the concrete is poured with a porous area or if a crack should form, the technology from KIM reacts by growing crystals to fill the area and block the movement of water and salts from reaching the reinforcing steel. We call that Smart Concrete.