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Construction giant makes 'green concrete' breakthrough in recycling old building materials: 'The greatest hurdle is getting everybody on board'

The material is actually being used in real life construction projects.

The material is actually being used in real life construction projects.

Photo Credit: Skanska

Concrete manufacturing is responsible for roughly 7% of all heat-trapping carbon pollution every year. But one European construction firm is now using a proprietary type of "green concrete" made from recycled materials to create an approach that could bring the industry's pollution levels way down, the Stanford Social Innovation Review reported.

Construction giant Skanska's concrete, which it has branded "Rebetong," is a "concrete that uses one hundred percent recycled concrete and/or masonry to fully replace natural aggregates," according to its website. The company added: "This circular approach enables new buildings to be constructed from other buildings at the end of their life cycle."

According to Skanska's 2019 sustainability report, Rebetong creates 12% less planet-overheating air pollution than traditional concrete. However, that number could grow even higher as the technology around it improves.

The most exciting thing about Rebetong is that it is being used in real-life construction projects. Skanska, along with Prague- and London-based architecture firm CHYBIK + KRISTOF, is using the material in a new 790-unit apartment complex in the Czech Republic.

Although there are other viable environmentally friendly alternatives to traditional concrete that exist — including concrete injected with carbon dioxide and another type of concrete that uses recycled materials — getting construction companies to use them is another matter entirely. Like any industry, the construction industry is set in its ways and reluctant to make changes that may be more expensive in the short run.

"The greatest hurdle is getting everybody on board to think about construction in a completely new way," said José Mercado of the German Energy Agency.

Since most in the construction industry cannot be relied on to make these changes on their own, one great and underutilized strategy is legally compelling them to do so by regulating how much planet-overheating air pollution new developments are allowed to produce. This approach has been used in Ireland, for example, where new regulations call for more planet-friendly materials to be used in concrete manufacturing.

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