Dream Remodeling Likely Includes Cement

Dream Remodeling Likely Includes Cement
September 13, 2023 Sabine Schoenberg

Thinking of expanding your home? Or, perhaps your dream remodeling project includes a fabulous flagstone terrace with an outdoor kitchen, the likes of which SHG Living host, Brett presents in BYOT, for example. All of these projects involve the use of cement. It is one example of how we, as consumers, are part of today’s pollution. How? Here are some shocking facts:

Cement – Does It Really Matter?

Approximately 2 gigatons of CO2 are released every year in the production of cement.  Construction is forecasted to expand further increasing the need for cement/concrete. A 2020 Princeton University study presents three eye-opening stats:

       1) “Concrete is the highest consumed product on earth besides water

       2) “The process of making cement makes up to 8% of overall global (CO2) emissions

       3) “The cement business emits more than 4 billion tons of carbon each year

In other words, discussing more sustainable processes MUST include greener production methods of cement and concrete. Fortunately, there are significant advances globally in what is generally grouped together as “Green Concrete” which should be finding their way into your dream remodeling project.

What is “Green Concrete”?  The exact definition depends on the manufacturer.  All of the big cement companies are looking for lower CO2 emissions from production, as well as reductions in the use of raw materials, such as water.

Wouldn’t you feel a lot better knowing that the cement you used for your dream remodeling project is not such a pollution contributor? Significant improvements are possible.

Leading Green Cement Production Technologies

Solidia Technologies is one of the leading green concrete technology companies.  Devin Patten explained that their technology recaptures carbon emissions from the kilns and adds it back into the cement mixture. Solid further cures the cement with CO2 instead of water.  In other words, lower CO2 emissions and almost 100% of water consumption are achieved in their technology.

Both Solidia and another company, CarbonCure, are added to existing cement production facilities. By contrast, Terra CO2 builds its plants near mines to obtain inexpensive and carbonate-low raw materials such as silicate from rock, basalt, and sand mines.

All of the green concrete companies are quick to point to rigorous testing and performance standards for their cement products. Many are choosing to focus on flat products such as concrete pavers and poured driveways to test their products over time.

Things Can Go Very Wrong

A cement/ concrete failure in Connecticut homes points out just how inadvertent problems can occur. Sadly, homes built between 1983-2000 in certain northeastern Connecticut towns received sand that contained pyrrhotite.  What started with spider cracks in these foundations quickly bled to total foundation failure due to the pyrrhotite in the concrete mix.

About 30,000 homes are affected.  This large number brought in FEMA since home insurance companies did not cover deteriorations over time.

FEMA reports that the “only safe and effective method to fix a house that has tested positive for pyrrhotite is to lift the house off the existing foundation and completely replace all the concrete.”

So what is Pyrrhotite? It is a common mineral found in shale, coal beds, and rock. In Connecticut reportedly the sand contained pyrrhotite. Sand? Yes, as simple as sand can lead to catastrophic concrete failure.

In other words,  adding anything to well-known and well-tested cement mixtures needs to be tested thoroughly.  It needs to be taken VERY carefully and cautiously.  Just imagine the replacement of all of these foundations. There is certainly nothing “eco-friendly” or “green” about this kind of massive replacement process.

So the next time you watch the fabulous homes on Eco Design or Rise, Sustainability for your Home, ask yourself what is your dream remodeling project, and what kind of materials you need to think through to truly make it an eco-friendly home-building project.