But there is another level, one which the NRMCA has adopted. Sustainability applies not just to the product, and the application of that product, but also to the production. This shifts the focus inward, with a spotlight on the enterprise. And this bright light reveals very quickly whether sustainability was a goodwill marketing effort, or is truly embedded in the company.
The NRMCA Sustainability Initiatives have challenged the industry to meet some very aggressive goals by 2030: 30% reduction in embodied energy and carbon footprint, 20% reduction in potable water, 50% reduction in waste and a 400% increase in recycled content. They are tackling issues of source energy, water re-use, and end-of life extension. The target for plant design, production, maintenance and waste management is aligned with zero waste discharge. Edward Mazria, CEO and founder of Architecture 2030 notes: “This is precisely the kind of industry program that can help the Building Sector meet its targets to lower GHG emissions. We’re incredibly encouraged by the leadership NRMCA is providing to drive innovation and reduce the carbon footprint of their industry.” Bravo
And now comes the difficult part and the greatest opportunity. Concrete is an integral part of most construction projects, especially commercial and industrial. There are about 2,500 ready mixed companies that operate over 7,500 concrete plants in the US. This is a workforce of local jobs, not just in the plants, but with a very visible face at the job sites. The industry relies on a veritable network of people, from the specifying engineers and architects, to the finishers. In many ways, concrete is the foundation of the construction industry. And herein lies the opportunity.
While many of the recommendations made by the NRMCA require hard dollar investment, many more are a function of awareness and opportunity. For example, reducing the footprint of concrete delivery is based on several choices: truck size, delivery route, timing, minimizing truck idling, truck maintenance. There are choices to be made about return concrete, truck washing. It is also a result of decisions of mix design (i.e. self-consolidating concrete for faster placement), and agreements on truck route access. This is a complex and interwoven combination of many decisions, by many people. It is a unique opportunity to mobilize this army around a common mindset of sustainability, embedded in the very fabric of every enterprise decision.
So I commend the NRMCA for adopting Architecture 2030, CEMEX for their investment in a wind turbine, applaud the continued research through MIT, and fully endorse the concrete industry Joint Sustainability Initiative. And I also hope that our industry reaches out to the key link in all of this – the very motive for sustainability - people.