CEMEX aims to lead in sustainable construction by developing building products and solutions that have significant positive sustainability attributes and contribute to the transformation of the construction sector.
Our CEMEX Technology Center works to develop more efficient and sustainable products and processes that meet customer needs for more sustainable building materials. As a result of our research and development efforts, we produce a range of innovative products that can be used to design and construct more energy efficient, sustainable, and accessible buildings.
The following product innovations help to improve the sustainability of buildings and other structures:
Insulating concrete forms, made primarily from polystyrene and filled with concrete to help keep heat out in hot climates and to retain it in cold weather.
Self-compacting concrete, which has a dense formulation, improves the strength, durability, and life of a structure, while reducing labor costs, energy use, and health risks during construction and maintenance costs throughout its life.
Pervious concrete, which allows rainwater to filter through, reduces flooding and heat concentration by up to approximately 39°F, and helps to prevent skidding on wet roads.
Rapid-setting concrete, which contains up to 80 percent fly ash, is a low-carbon alternative to conventional concrete. Concrete with high acid resistance is robust and durable for uses such as cooling towers or for storing silage on livestock farms.
We are exploring ways to combine our existing products to deliver new solutions that meet client needs. We are looking beyond the traditional technical properties of concrete to develop “next generation” ready-mix concrete products that incorporate labor considerations such as time savings, health, and safety, as well as other environmental impacts such as noise reduction. These innovations will enable us to make new products and solutions more accessible to our clients.
In addition, we are evaluating and improving the life-cycle analysis of our products to enhance our understanding of and ultimately reduce their environmental footprint. A specific example is the Life-Cycle.
Assessment of concrete pavements vs. asphalt pavements that demonstrate the reduction of CO2 emissions during the life utility of the pavement by several factors, for example: less maintenance, less power consumption in illumination during its use, and less fuel consumption due the reduction or rolling resistance.
Buildings account for approximately 40 percent of final energy used globally. Of this, approximately 90 percent is the energy used during their lifespan from operation, maintenance and renovation, and only 10 percent accounts for materials manufacturing, transportation, the actual construction and dismantling.
By working collaboratively with others in the construction industry to make buildings more energy efficient, we can contribute significantly to a reduction in global energy use. Toward this end, World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) member companies are working collectively, through the WBCSD’s Energy Efficiency in Buildings (EEB) project. The EEB's vision is for a future in which buildings use zero net energy, and the project's mandate is to develop a roadmap that outlines, from a business perspective, the critical steps needed to transform buildings' energy consumption.
Our building materials, ready-mix concrete in particular, can help customers reduce the environmental impacts of their buildings and meet the requirements of existing certifications, such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).
We have been actively involved with other industry players in the establishment of the Concrete Sustainability Hub at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). We were encouraged by the first report published by MIT and expect both more information on the sustainability attributes of concrete as well as technical innovations that will result in additional benefits to the industry and society at large.
MIT released preliminary research findings that will help set a new standard in life-cycle assessment (LCA) modeling. The studies, which are part of the ongoing research initiative, will quantify the cradle-to-grave environmental costs of paving and building materials, and will ultimately result in the most comprehensive LCA model produced to-date.
Initial findings in the Buildings LCA have shown that more than 90 percent of the life-cycle carbon emissions from residential buildings are due to the use or operational phase. The study also showed that in residential structures, the use of insulating concrete forms instead of code compliant wood-framed construction can produce operational energy savings of 20 percent or more, with the highest energy savings occurring in colder climates.
The Highway Pavement LCA showed that for high-volume roads, the use phase of the lifecycle can account for up to 85 percent of total carbon emissions. MIT is set to release a follow-up studies that will examine the economic costs to provide the most comprehensive analysis of the total costs of building and paving materials.
High Scale Infrastructure
We seek to promote social and economic development through innovative, sustainable building solutions that improve people's quality of life.
The intelligent use of concrete as a building material can reduce key environmental impacts that contribute to climate change and other significant environmental issues. Concrete's inherent properties—extreme durability, rigidity, and high reflectivity—make it ideal for large scale infrastructure projects. When we participate in the development of large scale infrastructure projects, a primary focus is on concrete paving for roads and highways.
Concrete pavements, as compared to those built with asphalt, offer the following potential benefits:
- Greater Durability: Since concrete pavements can be designed to last over 40 years, concrete is the best long-term pavement solution.
- Better Traffic Flows: The durability of concrete minimizes the need for extensive repairs or annual maintenance of roads and highways, thereby avoiding traffic problems for their users. When repairs are necessary, they are typically smaller in scope than those for asphalt pavements.
- Reduced Life Cycle Costs: Although the initial investment in concrete pavements is marginally higher than asphalt pavements, concrete pavements require less maintenance over their lifetime, making them the more cost-effective solution.
- Reduced Temperature: Concrete pavements provide reflective surfaces that minimize the "urban heat island" effect. Their lighter color has higher solar reflective qualities—thus—making the environment up to 15°C cooler than asphalt pavements.
- Better Light Reflection: Concrete reflects 33 percent to 50 percent more light than asphalt. This is especially important for driving safely at night and for reducing street lighting costs.
- Reduced Rolling Resistance: Due to its rigidity, concrete paving offers significantly less resistance for a vehicle's wheels to roll. Consequently, concrete paving requires lower fuel consumption for vehicles traveling faster than 30 km/h, compared to a flexible pavement such as asphalt. On any given roadway where concrete is used, the higher the traffic volumes, the greater the savings in fuel consumption.
- Increased Safety: Concrete pavements reduce the probability of road accidents. They not only provide better visibility at night, but also are easily textured during construction to create a surface that provides superior traction and a quiet ride.