IEAGHG Report – International Standards and Testing for Novel Carbonaceous Building Materials (2023-06)

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By Nicola Clarke

22 January 2024

With over 4 Gt of cement and 46 Gt of aggregate produced each year, equating to ~8% of global anthropogenic CO2 emissions, the construction industry is likely to grow with the expansion of the built environment at a time when emissions need to be reduced. Over the past two decades, an increasing number of companies have emerged with a focus on developing innovative materials that utilise CO2 to lower the carbon emissions intensity of construction products. However, market barriers include the current state of standards, regulations and policies.

This latest IEAGHG study, undertaken by the researchers at Imperial College London, provides useful information for the technical and research community, the CCUS industry, the construction industry, and policymakers, in providing an unbiased and non-prescriptive evaluation of international standards and testing relevant to novel carbonaceous building materials to address some of those barriers.

The study begins with a comprehensive summary and comparison of existing standards, codes and testing worldwide for cement, concrete and aggregate, focussing on UK, European, US, ISO and Chinese standards. The development of models for safe reliable performance-based standards is discussed. The main approaches to creating and maintaining standards in the international community are outlined and global experts in the construction industry, materials and CO2 utilisation have been interviewed.

A set of company profiles and case studies are presented representing those developing and producing carbonated building materials. The report then outlines methods for certifying and measuring the embodied carbon content of carbonated building materials and the challenges therein.

Interviews with industry leaders emphasised that climate change is an extremely important priority throughout the building materials industry, with CO2 intensity or other measures being increasingly common to be part of tendering processes and shareholder pressure to decarbonise an important factor. However, safety and testing are seen as vital to maintain high standards. Knowledge sharing will be critical across industries and countries, especially as the main growth area will be in emerging nations rather than developed countries. Comparing standards across borders can be problematic due to the differing criteria given for composition or end-use requirements, even within the same standards there can be large differences in application due to for example climatic variation. The report highlights that proactive effort, time and funding will be required to speed up the currently slow drift from mainly prescriptive to performance-based standards that are needed. Also support from governments is important in the form of legislation or tax credits to deploy new materials.

IEAGHG are delighted to contribute to this important emerging field with this detailed, objective, and relevant study.

To request a copy of this report, please contact mail@ieaghg.org quoting the report number (2023-06). 

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