Widespread hesitancy around innovative concrete

The urgent reduction and elimination of concrete’s carbon emissions is the most important step toward net zero, but it requires changes to design, guidelines, regulations, and leadership, according to one industry body.

These are the thoughts of Clare Tubolets, CEO of SmartCrete CRC who says the challenge will be in creating the environment and framework within which they can occur, and having concrete innovation accepted and adopted at scale within the construction and engineering sectors.

Most of the primary research into zero-cement concretes has been conducted in Australia, real-groundbreaking work.

“Enormous levels of knowledge have been developed in Australia and globally around low carbon concrete using supplementary cementitious materials, as well as finding better, more sustainable ways to design and build that allow for the use of less concrete and for the removal and reuse of demountable, modular concrete segments in buildings and other constructions,” Ms Tubolets explains. “In some areas, we lead the world. This is particularly true in terms of the knowledge behind geopolymer concrete, which uses industrial waste such as fly ash and slag in place of cement.”

The use of concrete is forecast to increase up to 40% by 2050 as Australia’s demand for climate-resilient buildings and infrastructure continues. However, despite several research collaborations around the country and the success of Wagners’ geopolymer Earth Friendly Concrete, there is still “widespread hesitancy” around adopting innovative concrete products, according to SmartCrete CRC.

“Without a fresh attitude toward change in design, without relevant government guidelines and regulations, and without leadership at all levels to demonstrate confidence in new products and processes, our various concrete capabilities will remain unused and their economic advantages unexploited,” Ms Tubolets says.

Image: Wagners’ EFC used by Thirdson Construction for a residential project, saving over 29 tonnes of embodied carbon emissions.

About the author

Desi Corbett

Desi is our weekly news journalist and the editor of Concrete in Australia magazine for 10 years. She has been heavily involved in all forms of engineering since 2013; part of a 30-year writing career across a range of subjects and media.