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BSA News

Feb 09, 2023

CLF Boston Hub receives grant for work on low-carbon concrete

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Photo by Brandon Lee on Unsplash.

Concrete accounts for 11 percent of total global carbon emissions. That’s a lot of carbon for one building material, which is why there are ongoing efforts to produce cleaner forms.

The Boston chapter of the Carbon Leadership Forum (CLF) is a BSA Knowledge Community that works on issues of embodied carbon in the built environment. With the help of a grant from the Jampart Charitable Trust, the group is now working on a stakeholder engagement series that will identify obstacles and opportunities for adopting low-carbon concrete in Boston and the Northeast.

“The idea is to simply make the product better and greener. It doesn’t perform any differently from regular concrete, which, globally, has a huge impact. Concrete is ubiqituous— it’s the material that is used in our infrastructure, and because of that, there’s a real big opportunity here to drive down carbon once there is momentum with low-carbon concrete. The goal is to make it mainstream so it becomes typical practice,” said Rachelle Ain AIA, architect at Utile and co-chair of CLF.

Ain thinks that rather than a lack of technical knowledge, the major obstacles to adopting low-carbon concrete are a lack of widespread processes. “It’s feasible to replace cement with materials that have lower carbon impact, and there’s a lot of innovation out there,” she said.

“Boston’s a concrete-heavy city,” Ain added. “Introducing low-carbon concrete and having conversations is a change in the way that we practice.”

To help facilitate the series, CLF and the BSA have enlisted the support of the consultant team of Barbra Batshalom, Founder & CEO of the Sustainable Performance Institute in Boston and Michelle Lambert Assoc. AIA, Founding Principal at Lambert Sustainability.

“The only way to achieve transformation, at any scale, begins with engaging the stakeholders who ‘own’ the existing processes and practices. Success lies in including people who are directly affected by or are needed to lead the changes, understanding the nuances of their perspectives and what the barriers and opportunities are, and testing ideas together,” said Batshalom.

While plans for the series are still in the works, it is expected to span more than six months.

“Low-carbon concrete is a perfect example of a very complex and multi-layered ecosystem and supply chain with many many players and interactions. It’s brilliant of CLF Boston Hub and the BSA to have recognized the need for this kind of engagement so that the progress we make going forward will be truly transformative, enabling us to build the future we need,” Batshalom said.

Michelle Lambert Assoc. AIA, Founding Principal at Lambert Sustainability, is another consultant on the work. “The decarbonization of the built environment relies on the reduced energy use of building operations as well as lowering the CO2 emissions generated by building materials and products,” she said. “Concrete has the opportunity to lead the way by playing a significant role.”

With its deep relevance to reducing embodied carbon in the environment, the work is intricately tied to the BSA’s focuses on climate and equity.

Learn more about CLF’s work and the BSA's innovation practices.