As the most widely used building material in the world, concrete plays a significant role in the carbon footprint of the building and construction industry. Its key component, cement, is the source of about 8 % of the world's CO2 emissions, according to think tank Chatham House.
To reach the goals of the Paris Agreement, annual global CO2 emissions linked to concrete will need to fall by steeply in the next few years.
As a response to this, Snøhetta has entered a strategic partnership with Norwegian startup Saferock to pilot and market the production of a more sustainable concrete.
The chemical and thermal combustion processes involved in the production of cement places the material with CO2 emissions above aviation fuel (2.5 %) and not far behind agriculture (12 %).
Globally industrial processes generate vast amounts of various residues with untapped potential. Saferock’s patented technology gives new value to these unutilized by-products. The idea is to develop low CO2 emission concrete as an alternative to the established Portland-based concrete, which is currently the most widely used building material in the world. This multiplex solution is based on on-site production, eliminating both transport emissions and time.
An alternative to Portland-based concrete is geopolymer concrete – a type of inorganic polymers consisting of minerals, typically stemming from waste streams from mining industries and power plants. This provides a unique opportunity where mining waste has previously posed an environmental threat.
The production of geopolymers has a CO2 footprint that is at least 70 % lower compared to the production of traditional Portland cement (reference values from the Norwegian Concrete Association). In addition, geopolymers have several properties that are favorable compared to concrete based on Portland cement for certain applications, such as higher temperature and chemical resistance and significantly lower permeability.
This multiplex solution is based on on-site production, eliminating both transport emissions and time. This provides a unique opportunity where mining waste has previously posed an environmental threat.
The first step of the research project is to pilot and scale up the development of tomorrow’s building materials in the form of low emission concrete. The next step will be to ensure that the technology and materials are a part of a circular ecosystem. This will truly impact the industry's environmental footprint.
By utilizing industrial by-products to make geopolymer concrete, Snøhetta and Saferock estimates that carbon emissions associated with the production of concrete can be reduced by more than 70 % as a first step. By 2025, the aim is to produce fully CO2 neutral concrete.
The project is in line with Snøhetta’s mission to reduce the environmental footprint of the building industry, and to accelerate the world's transition to sustainable building materials.
The geopolymers are also known as "artificial rocks".
Snøhetta has developed a brand identity for Saferock that will help the firm communicate effectively with its stakeholders in an uncharted market through clear messaging, a bold design system and strong visuals. Based on the concept of impact, the brand identity is characterized by a minimalist yet expressive visual language that stands out in its category and triggers curiosity.
The visual identity and website are designed with a confident and bold visual language driven by a typography that is atypical for the industry, with strong visuals dramatizing the material and product. Saferock’s innovative solutions are communicated through the displaying of both the micro and macro scale of the geopolymer concrete and its components.
Efforts have been taken to minimize the environmental footprint of the website in terms of hosting, content management and maintenance. This includes employing technologies that improve speed, user experience and page size.
Snøhetta is further exploring other initiatives to develop websites with a net zero carbon footprint.
Several projects related to the use of sustainable concrete are currently in the works. If you are interested to learn more about these projects or have ideas for other applications, please reach out to Snøhetta at firstname.lastname@example.org or Saferock at email@example.com.
For more information, please visit https://saferock.no/