Sustainability is best defined as creating and maintaining the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony to support present and future generations (Environmental Protection Agency , 2016). As the population grows, housing demand will follow suit; this concept has new life into many industries and their respective markets.
As the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) implements the California Long-Term Energy Efficiency Strategy Plan, a foundational goal is ensuring all new residential buildings be Zero Net Energy (ZNE) by 2020, and all new commercial buildings be ZNE by 2030. Additionally, 50% of existing commercial buildings will need to be retrofitted to ZNE by 2030.
Photo credit: Perkins+Will
Concrete is the second most consumed substance on Earth after water. Now, that statement may not come as a surprise to you if you work in design, construction, or real estate. After the Industrial Revolution, the majority of the Western world’s buildings have been erected with concrete and steel. And, as urban populations grow over the next 30 years (L.A. is projected to gain an additional 1.5 million people by the year 2050), the use of concrete is expected to increase rapidly to meet the demands of urbanization. But at what cost to our environment?
Cement, the primary ingredient in concrete, accounts for around 5% of global carbon dioxide emissions, which are associated with climate change. As we build out our cities, making room for future populations, that percentage will only continue to grow. Cement production increases 2.5% annually, and is expected to rise from 2.55 billion tons in 2006 to 3.7-4.4 billion tons by 2050. In order to moderate the enormous greenhouse gas emissions associated with these urbanization projections , more efficient, economical and sustainable building construction materials must be developed.
Is there a superior alternative?