The construction sector in its current form is not sustainable.
According to the EU commission, the sector is responsible for a whopping 35% of the bloc’s total waste generation. Emissions from material extraction, manufacturing of construction products, as well as construction and renovation of buildings are estimated at 5-12% of total national GHG emissions, according to the Commission.
At the heart of the problem lies concrete, the second most widely used material on Earth, second only to water. In 2022, the total volume of cement (the key ingredient of concrete) produced worldwide amounted to an estimated 4.1 billion tons.
Concrete is everywhere. And the production of it contributes upwards of seven percent of global greenhouse gas emissions every year. The growing focus on carbon accounting and reporting requirements is putting the sector increasingly in the spotlight.
While stakeholders agree it’s necessary, decarbonising the construction sector is challenging. Concrete is not an easy material to replicate and any material used for construction must behave like concrete.
There is not enough wood in the world to do the job of concrete, nor is it strong enough. And while some hope to substitute concrete for other materials such as plastic or glass, it is not that straightforward.
Our client, a professional services firm, wanted to understand if there were opportunities for supporting companies in the construction sector in their decarbonization journey.
The project was split into two halves. First, we assessed 10 broad emerging technology categories and gauged their suitability as concrete substitutes and analysed 26 companies developing emerging technologies.
Secondly, we worked with specialists to build up a detailed picture of the concrete value chain, mapping the key points in the production process where carbon is generated.
After looking at existing tools, we identified areas where they could be improved for our client’s needs and created a new tool that mapped the concrete value chain. The goal was to ensure the tool was as flexible and bespoke as possible. It needed to include what goes into a concrete mix and all the transport and was customized to their clients.
Our custom tool generated nine possible use cases for our client and a further eight more with suggested enhanced functionalities in the future. In total, it created over 60 tunable parameters for bespoke modelling which generated quantitative results within +/-1% of existing tools and expanded functionality.