Block-Lite, a small concrete manufacturer in Arizona was already a local leader in sustainability when in 2020 started to power its operations with on-site solar panels. But now it’s doing something much more ambitious by cutting cement from the recipe of concrete.
A pioneering collaboration
Block-Lite engaged in a pioneering collaboration with climate tech startups, Aircapture and CarbonBuilt to suck carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and stash it in concrete blocks. The companies estimate the project will reduce the carbon footprint of Block-Lite’s products by 70 per cent, creating a model they hope could reshape the industry – Grist.org reports.
An enormous problem for the climate
Concrete is responsible for nearly 10% of global carbon emissions. However, most of that carbon doesn’t come from manufacturing concrete, but from the production of its main ingredient, cement.
CarbonBuilt has developed a solution by replacing cement with a mix of inexpensive, locally-sourced industrial waste materials including byproducts of coal plants, steelmaking, and chemical production. The next thing needed is a machine that hardens these materials into concrete blocks — by curing them with carbon dioxide. That’s where Aircapture comes in. The company will build one of its machines which extract carbon dioxide from the ambient air directly on Block-Lite’s site.
Ultra-low carbon blocks at price parity with traditional blocks
The project is breaking ground, in part, thanks to a $150,000 grant from the Four Corners Carbon Coalition. The group of local governments aims to finance projects that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. In addition to that funding, the company plans to sell carbon credits for the CO2 that Aircapture’s equipment pulls out of the atmosphere, as well as for the carbon reductions from using less cement.
“All too often sustainable building materials require a trade-off between cost and performance, but what is unique about this project is that there’s no ‘green premium.’” – Block-Lite said. “We’re going to be able to produce on-spec, ultra-low carbon blocks at price parity with traditional blocks which should speed adoption and impact.”