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Building green with the help of concrete

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The building sector, both here and worldwide, is facing an enormous challenge to address our environmental footprint and impact on climate change.
Charles Kelly
Charles Kelly

Industry Voices | Charles Kelly

The building sector, both here and worldwide, is facing an enormous challenge to address our environmental footprint and impact on climate change.

Buildings account for about 40 per cent of CO2 emissions in North America, and the materials and processes associated with construction are a portion of industrial and transportation emissions.

We are not going to stop building, but we can certainly build smarter and in a more sustainable fashion than we do today.

To do that, we need to harness the information on identifying the components and ingredients in building products.

Our customers, some now and more in the future, will demand supply chain, operational and environmental impact information.

Architects and engineers need this information to make informed decisions on what product to select to best achieve desired outcomes.

The shift to more transparency and accountability is not easy. It’s not just the effort and cost, it’s a total change in mindset to position your industry sector and company, to embrace the dual responsibilities of transparency and accountability.

Materials sector organizations are at the early stages of assisting their respective members to understand and commit to such reporting methods.

Some of this is being driven by LEEDv4, which in Canada will almost certainly be approved by the Canadian Green Building Council in June.

In the U.S., LEEDv4 has been in place for almost a year.

Within the new version of LEED there is a point for being transparent, without the accompanying analytics required for a full scale environmental product declaration (EPD).

The National Ready Mixed Concrete Association (NRMCA) in the U.S. has launched an Industry EPD initiative, which when verified, will enable participants to achieve a half point towards LEED certification.

This is an important first step for EPD development within corporations.

A few B.C. Ready-Mixed Concrete Association members are participating in this exercise and we will all learn from this. The B.C. ready-mixed industry is responding to these challenges with a new ECCO Plant Certification program, which will be available this fall.

This certification will enable and encourage manufacturers to achieve and report on the highest standards of environmental and sustainable practices.

All certifications will be verified by third party engineering consultants.

It isn’t only LEED driving the sustainability choices.

The Architecture 2030 challenge, to produce carbon neutral buildings by 2030, has resulted in numerous local governments in North America legislating these targets.

The Net Zero Home Coalition and the Passive House movement are having an impact on how we view what’s possible with on-site renewable technologies and energy efficient material choices.

The upcoming B.C. Building Code changes will change how homes are built and the material and product choices.

It’s our view that for homes and midrise construction, Insulating Concrete Forms (ICF) are a superior building product to achieve energy conservation goals.

To assist contractors, engineers and architects, we have researched and will soon publish the results of laboratory testing and guidelines on window placement, to avoid water intrusion in ICF buildings.

The results are being incorporated into Building Envelope Guidelines produced by the B.C. Housing’s, Homeowner Protection Office. We are just at the beginning of a new age of advanced industrial materials.

It isn’t the same old concrete, wood and steel. It isn’t about selecting one material over another, but how the materials work together for a more sustainable built environment. We have worked to change some of that conversation with Converge 2013 last October and we will continue to encourage greater collaboration among leaders in all materials sectors.

Charles Kelly is the President of the B.C. Ready-Mixed Concrete Association. Send comments or questions to editor@journalofcommerce.com.

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by Journal Of Commerce

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