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Carbon Neutral Bricks: Innovation for Advancing Sustainable Construction

Modern construction is about sustainability – adopting new methods, utilizing low-carbon materials, and aiming for net zero. As construction technologies advance toward sustainability, there’s a simultaneous push for innovative, eco-friendly building materials. Reflecting this concerted effort for a greener future, Seratech, a climate-tech startup, recently created a carbon-neutral brick prototype.

The construction industry is a significant contributor to CO2 emissions. The brick sector alone is responsible for over a million tons of CO2 annually. This impact stems largely from the traditional production process, notably the firing of conventional clay bricks at temperatures exceeding 1,200 degrees Celsius, resulting in nearly 1 kilogram of embodied CO2 per brick. Seratech’s carbon-neutral brick can offer a solution to this issue. Let’s learn more about it.

Seratech’s Carbon Neutral Brick Prototype

Funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF), researchers created this carbon-neutral brick prototype after 18 months of research. Using Seratech’s proprietary Carbon Capture, Mineralization, and Utilization (CCMU) process, a magnesium carbonate binder was created which permanently traps CO2 from industry flue emissions within the built environment.

The team collaborated with structural engineers AKT II and materials experts Local Works Studio to test various mixes, aiming to enhance the performance and circularity of the brick. It was the magnesium carbonate binding agent that made this brick a low-carbon solution for the construction industry.

As reported by Construction Management, the brick is almost carbon neutral. It’s heated using electricity and while it hardens, a bit of CO2 is released, but way less than clay bricks. The bricks binding agent is magnesium carbonate which has about 30% carbon dioxide in it by weight. This way, it can store a lot of carbon dioxide that would otherwise go into the air and make the planet hotter.

In the following months, the prototypes will be thoroughly tested to ensure they meet building standards.

Talking about the prototype Caitlin Howe, Seratech’s Technical Director, said “It’s wonderful to be working towards something that will hopefully make a difference to carbon emissions in the long run. Knowing there is scope for this product to change the entire industry is incredibly exciting and spurs you on. It really looks and feels like a conventional brick.”

Carbon Neutrality in Construction

Carbon neutrality in construction involves reducing or offsetting the carbon emissions associated with the entire lifecycle of a building, from the extraction of raw materials to construction, operation, and eventual demolition or repurposing. Various strategies can be employed to achieve carbon neutrality in construction:

  • Material Selection:Select low-carbon materials or those with a smaller environmental footprint, such as recycled materials, sustainably sourced wood, or alternatives to high-carbon materials like concrete or steel.
  • Construction Processes:Implementing energy-efficient construction methods, using renewable energy sources during construction, and optimizing transportation of materials to reduce emissions.
  • Designing for Energy Efficiency:Designing and constructing buildings to be highly energy-efficient, utilizing green technologies, insulation, and efficient heating/cooling systems to minimize operational carbon emissions.
  • Lifecycle Assessment:Considering the entire lifecycle of the building, from construction to demolition, and aiming to reduce emissions at every stage, including operational energy use and disposal.

The call for reducing carbon emissions in the construction industry has gained significant momentum. Earlier this year, the UN urged the cement and concrete sector to take crucial steps in slashing emissions

Defined pathways for decarbonizing construction echo similar sentiments. They emphasize the imperative to reduce the extraction and production of raw materials, turn towards locally sourced and eco-friendly materials, and leverage technological innovations to refine construction methods.

Achieving carbon neutrality in construction demands a collective commitment to minimize emissions. By embracing sustainable materials, innovative technologies, and efficient practices, the industry can pave the way for a greener and climate-resilient future.

 

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