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Building and construction are responsible for a whopping 39% of carbon emissions worldwide. In an effort to reduce environmental impact, industry standards and customer requirements are rapidly evolving—pressuring construction companies to adopt sustainable practices to reduce that sizable carbon impact.

It is not uncommon for industry execs to view environmental considerations as a necessary hassle—simply one more obstacle in a long list of boxes that must be checked to successfully complete a project. Years go into refining construction strategies to yield profitable results, so resistance to these requirements is understandable. Construction executives don’t want to compromise on quality; they need to complete projects on ever-tighter timelines. They need to ensure these complex projects remain profitable. And they don’t need more obstacles to achieving those goals.

In the past, sustainability too often felt like it was at odds with those goals above. Many green technologies that involved major compromise in terms of costs, quality and project timelines simply were not practical. That has been true for various approaches to green concrete over the years. The technologies were interesting, but there were always concessions involved. Too often, the upside of the reduced environmental impact just didn’t outweigh the downsides in terms of cost, quality and other key needs. That was true for a number of green construction materials over the years, but there have been some surprising recent innovations particularly when it comes to green concrete.

Datacenters Switching to Green Concrete

Concrete is a staple in construction, and a major component of concrete is cement. Production of cement is responsible for seven percent of global carbon emissions. If the construction industry aims to reduce its carbon footprint, addressing concrete’s role is a must. Just like many construction projects, the building of data centers uses concrete extensively: foundations, sidewalks, pre-cast walls and roofing all rely heavily on concrete.

Data centers are large facilities that house mission-critical computing systems that power corporate computing systems, cloud computing, apps for smartphones and everything else imaginable that uses computing. Data center companies are beginning to search for an alternative to traditional concrete, as a way to mitigate the effect that data center construction has on the environment. This effort is being driven by individual companies’ sustainability strategies as well as clear guidance from consumers that they want to increase sustainability of data centers not only in power usage but also in materials and construction.

Green concrete is one particularly impactful construction material. There is one specific green concrete on the market right now that uses carbon sequestration technology to mineralize atmospheric CO2, and inject it into concrete mix, reducing the amount of cement required in building projects. While there are some other fillers on the market that can be used in concrete mix to reduce cement quantity, this specific technology actually removes carbon from the atmosphere and embodies it into the concrete making it a win, win for the environment. It is estimated that a data center company implementing this technology across their campuses would reduce their CO2 footprint by an average of 1,800 tons per campus, which is the equivalent CO2 sequestered by 2,100 acres of forest or driving a car 4 million miles for each construction site. Minimizing environmental impact does not mean sacrificing quality and the use of this innovative new green concrete in data center construction is a testament to that.

Benefits of Switching

For large projects, the cost of this green concrete is offset by the reduced volume of cement needed, making it no more expensive than conventional concrete. That seems counterintuitive given the typically higher cost of green materials, but it is a key metric for companies deciding to use this concrete. Additionally, using this kind of green concrete can have a big impact on a building’s performance under the LEED v4.1 sustainability rating system. Another attractive feature of this green concrete is the material’s superior strength. The compression strength of the concrete is increased from the injections of mineralized carbon, making this technology especially well-suited for industrial projects involving significant engineering loads on walls and supports.

Given the focus that customers are placing on sustainability, the use of this green concrete can be a major differentiator that aligns with the sustainability requirements in so many RFPs today. Many are hesitant to change construction practices out of fear that it will mean compromising on quality or revenue, and those are legitimate lenses through which to look at green technologies. But the reality is that using this green concrete is a way to increase sustainability of concrete-intensive projects without those typical compromises—allowing companies to reduce the impact of a type of construction that is a major contributor to carbon output.


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