We make choices about what we use and how we do things all the time. Sometimes we don’t really think about it, sometimes we just do what we normally do and sometimes we are really challenged by the options that we know about and the options that we don’t know about. But the choices we make do have consequences and they do make a difference. I heard a really good news story this week which I was involved in that illustrates this point very well.
Cement takes a huge amount of energy to produce and we pour 2.5 tones of it every year for every person on the planet.
It is made by heating up limestone to very high temperatures. However when steel is being made, limestone is also used in the furnace to absorb the impurities from the iron ore. The waste product from this process is GGBS (Granulated Ground Bast-furnace Slag) and it behaves just like cement. Ecocem are an Irish company who produce this low energy cement substitute from waste materialand it is used in every concrete plant in the country.
In 2010 GGBS was used in most concrete products but in housing projects most of the concrete used is in concrete blocks and GGBS was not used in blocks.
At the time I was working in Ballymun regeneration and we were one of the few organisations in the country that were still building houses at the bottom of the economic slump.
We discussed the production of GGBS blocks with several manufacturers and finally Kilsaran Concrete decided to give it a go. They found that not only were able to produce GGBS blocks but the problems they thought would have didn’t arise and the final product had slightly better properties than ordinary concrete blocks.
I specified these blocks on our projects and they were a great success.
We highlighted this development at the time in the architectural and engineering community but once the economy picked up the concrete producers stopped making the blocks because they took longer to cure than ordinary blocks.
Recently however Ecocem have developed a curing accelerant that has solved this problem and GGBS blocks are back on the menu. All that is required now is to choose them. The power of that choice will make an impact.
Concrete production is responsible for 5% of CO2 production. By using GGBS Ecocem have saved 10 million tonnes of Co2 since 2003. To put that into context Ireland produces 60 million tonnes of CO2 in a year.To get the benefit of this we just have to ask for the right thing. This is the power of enlightened customer choice. By selecting the right products we can make a big difference