Friday, October 26, 2007


Cement: Big source of global warming
Did anyone else know about the connection between cement and carbon dioxide emissions before reading this morning's New York Times? In a front page article in the Business section, reporter Elisabeth Rosenthal writes that 5 percent of the world's carbon dioxide emissions occur during the production of cement, a key ingredient in concrete. "Cement poses a basic problem: the chemical reaction that creates it releases large amounts of carbon dioxide. Sixty percent of emissions caused by making cement are from this chemical process alone," writes Rosenthal.

She also asserts that making cement plants "greener" only increases the amount of cement production at those plants and doesn't decrease pollution. (The European Union provides economic incentives for companies in EU member nations to buy outdated cement plants in Eastern Europe and upgrade them.)

The article raises many questions in my mind. Does the U.S. Green Building Council take into account the pollution spewed into the atmosphere by concrete plants when determining which projects deserve LEED certification? Is it possible to build green with concrete? What do you think?

3 comments:

Jeffrey S said...

Yeah, cement certainly has it's problems but it's also a long lived material. I wonder how it compares in a Life Cycle Assessment with other materials- such as steel, aluminum or wood. And there are other costs than climate: toxic pollution, degradation from mining or logging, and the use of scarce materials.

For me, the bottom line is that all building has an environmental cost. We need to make sure that our buildings are worth the costs.

Anonymous said...

Gosh - for all this time I had thought that cows were a big
source of global warming (CO2 emissions ...) but now I learn that it is really cement!

Anonymous said...

Interesting... worth considering is the lifecycle of each material and its energy efficiency. Insulated concrete homes are extremely energy efficient and don't use carbon inhaling trees... The average home uses as much energy in 10 years as it took to make the structure. I would argue that concrete is still a very 'green' product.