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Greenhouse gas emissions from concrete can be reduced by using mix proportions, geometric aspects, and age as design factors

  • Author(s): Miller, SA;
  • Horvath, A;
  • Monteiro, PJM;
  • Ostertag, CP
  • et al.

With increased awareness of the emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and the significant contribution from the cement industry, research efforts are being advanced to reduce the impacts associated with concrete production and consumption. A variety of methods have been proposed, one of the most common being the replacement of cement as a binder in concrete with supplementary cementitious materials, such as fly ash (FA), which can have lower environmental effects. The use of FA can change the kinetics of the hydration reactions and, consequently, modify the evolution of the concrete strength over time. Yet the influence of designing structural elements to obtain the required strength at later ages has not been examined in terms of their influence on global warming potential (GWP) of concrete. This research investigates the influence of design age, in addition to mix proportions and geometric aspects, on the GWP associated with making beams, columns, and a concrete building frame. Findings suggest that while the GWP for beams is not highly dependent on concrete mixture strength, the GWP for columns is dependent on strength, thus the influence of required strength at later ages influences GWP of making columns more so than beams. For the concrete frame analyzed, a potential 45% reduction in GWP, depending on mix proportions and design age, was found. Using the findings from this research, the GWP associated with production of concrete in California could be reduced by approximately 1.8 million metric tons of CO2-eq emissions, equivalent to approximately 2% of all industrial GHG emissions in California.

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