Global demand for cement and concrete is growing exponentially, and it is second only to the demand for water. The concrete industry is global and local at the same time - most concrete is used within a 250 mile radius of where it is produced, with locally-found raw materials.
Cement and concrete are as old as civilization, and they have been crucial to its development. Historically, the world has gone through three concrete evolutionary stages:
- I. Neolithic – around 4000 BC, concrete was first used for shelter
- II. Roman Times – concrete was used to build roads, bridges etc.
- III. Industrial Age – Ordinary Portland Cement was developed in the early-19th century
- Next: Solidia – the digital era of sustainability
Cement and concrete are often seen as synonyms, but they are two different materials - cement is the ‘glue’ used to make concrete.
Cement and concrete production methods have been largely unchanged since the mid-19th century, and the industry still has a significant environmental footprint - especially in terms of CO2 emissions and energy and water use.
For every ton of cement produced, a ton of CO2 is released into the atmosphere - making the concrete industry responsible for 5-7% of total global carbon emissions and up to half of industrial energy use in emerging nations. On top of that, 3 trillion liters of fresh water are used for concrete production every year.
Carbon pollution, energy use, water scarcity, and solid waste management rank right at the top of humanity’s challenges for this century. Population growth and increased urbanization are making them harder and harder to overcome.
Meanwhile, few solutions have a wide enough impact to reverse these challenges quickly, and few markets are large enough to trigger a long-lasting, global shift.