In fact, concrete is the most-used building material in the world. According to the International Energy Agency’s Technology Roadmap, global cement production is predicted to grow by 12‑23% by 2050.
However, the impacts of cement and concrete production on people and planet can be significant. For example, significant environmental loads stem from the sourcing and manufacturing phase in the life cycle, such as sourcing of raw materials, water and energy usage, and release of CO2.
Improper extraction of raw materials such as sand, for example, can lead to the destruction of coastal and riverine ecosystems. Damage to these natural environments can result in removing vital ecosystem services such as flood control and water purification. Large volumes of concrete in our cities can also contribute to the heat-island effect, raising temperatures in urban areas.
Each year, more than 4 billion tonnes of cement are produced, accounting for around 8% of global CO2 emissions. Over half of these emissions are linked to the process for producing clinker, one of the main ingredients in cement. To bring the cement sector in line with the Paris Agreement on climate change, its annual emissions will need to fall by at least 16% by 2030.
In 2012, a study found that concrete production was responsible for 9% of global industrial water withdrawals, and predicted that by 2050, 75% of the water demand for concrete production would likely occur in regions expected to experience water stress.
Recent sustainable initiatives aim to improve cement and concrete production and composition and lessen its environmental impact. The GECA standard seeks to support and reward these efforts to minimise cement and concrete products’ impacts.
It is designed to ensure the cement and concrete products are fit for purpose, reduce the impact on human health and environment, and are ethically made. It enables manufacturers to access credits under green building/infrastructure rating tools and assures green procurers and specifiers when looking for products with a lower environmental impact. Also, this standard can contribute towards Green Star credits and ISCA credits.
The standard sets requirements that aim to provide a benefit by:
• reducing the impacts of raw material sourcing
• restricting carbon emissions
• preventing the use of specific hazardous materials and toxic heavy metals such as known carcinogens and mutagens
• requiring efficient waste management
• encouraging recovery, reuse, recycling and responsible disposal of materials and packaging
• ensuring workers and suppliers through the supply chain can expect fair pay, equal opportunity, and a safe working environment
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