The American Concrete Institute plans to lead the construction industry’s transition to carbon-neutral concrete through research and technology assessment conducted by its new Center of Excellence for Carbon Neutral Concrete. ACI's goal is for the material to be free of embodied carbon by 2050. 

ACI launched the initiative, which it calls NEU, at the group's spring convention in Orlando, March 27 to31. NEU will unite concrete stakeholders through "access to technologies and the knowledge needed to effectively and safely produce and place carbon-neutral concrete and concrete products," said Andrea Schokker, NEU's executive director, in an April 7 statement.

"Concrete plays a major role in a sustainable future" says Schokker. "Collaboration with members worldwide is critical to developing a comprehensive plan to help make the concrete [sector] carbon neutral by 2050."

Help Assessing Claims

Over the last few years, its members have turned to ACI for help assessing claims made by producers of lower embodied-carbon concrete products and technologies. NEU, as a subsidiary of ACI, will help collate and critically examine available research and education on carbon-neutral building materials so that concrete specifiers and subcontractors can act in a quick, decisive way to select lower-carbon products available in their regions, Schokker says. 

ACI also is working on a new appendix to its concrete standard, ACI 318, for the 2025 edition. It will serve as a starting point for the assessment of a particular mix's carbon neutrality. NEU's role in this effort is to help set criteria and methods for evaluating materials and their carbon footprint.

"Our focus is not on putting out standards, that’s the job of ACI," Schokker adds. "But what we would be doing is developing that validation piece and also helping with model code language."

The ACI board of direction approved funding to create and staff NEU's initial projects, but going forward, the intent is that a paid multitiered membership structure will mostly fund and direct NEU work. Located inside ACI's headquarters in Farmington Hills, Mich., NEU will also assist with technology acceleration and collaboration with ACI technical committees.

Membership is open to government agencies, technical societies, standards-writing bodies, manufacturers, contractors and design professionals.

A difficulty is that concrete, because of its cement content, is "a big producer of CO2," says Schokker.

"There is a bigger system to look at," she adds. "If we can reduce the initial CO2 footprint and look at the value over the life cycle of using concrete, that’s a much more reasonable [way] to go."