For the past decades, the green movement, environmentally conscious and eco-friendly phrases have gained their spot in every industry marketing material. Whether its clothes made from sustainable fabrics, organic food, or green concrete, its no surprise that sustainability has become the protagonist of this era.
Yet when we speak construction, sustainable solutions have recently been blooming in the sector. From large companies to startups, the professionals in the built sector are tackling the harsh claims that have arisen for the construction industry and bringing solutions to the table that help mitigate the carbon footprint and reduce its negative environmental impact.
Read further along for more details on how you can help make a difference, what we are doing at CEMEX Ventures with the entrepreneurial Contech ecosystem, and why it´s so important to take action now.
Are you a startup with a solution that can help us achieve a net-zero industry? Participate in Construction Startup Competition before June 27 and show us what you got! We are eager to get to know you.
What is carbon footprint?
A carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases (including carbon dioxide and methane) that are generated by everyone´s daily actions. In United States, the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities comes from burning fossil fuels for electricity, heat, and transportation.
Industry wise, the United Nations reported in 2019 that energy related CO2 emissions increased by 9.5 gigatons, largely because of the shift towards electricity instead of coal and oil. Sadly, this is a higher source of carbon emitter given the fossil fuels used in the generation of it. When adding emissions from the building construction industry on top of operational emissions, the sector accounted for 38% of total global energy-related CO2 emissions in the same year.
So, although reducing the carbon footprint on a personal level is a challenge that everyone must tackle individually, we want to detail what the construction industry is currently doing and can do moving forward in order to reduce its emissions and make the industry more sustainable. Yet, if you are asking yourself “What is my personal impact on the environment and what can I do to be a part of the solution?”, this carbon footprint calculator can be a good start.
At CEMEX Ventures we are committed to finding solutions in the sector that help us mitigate the industry´s environmental impact and promote innovation at the same time. As part of this year´s Construction Startup Competition, one of the categories is “Carbon Footprint Mitigation”. We will be paying close attention to participating startups that promote the better use of resources, improve waste management, include a circular economy approach, and find new ways of reducing the carbon footprint in the construction process, just to name a few examples.
Why is it necessary to reduce the carbon footprint?
Simply put, in order for the earth to survive and to fight the fast-evolving climate change, everyone must make a significant effort to reduce its carbon footprint. Why? Because global temperatures have increased 1°C since the pre-industrial era. If no action or public policy is enforced, and the world continues living as it has been doing so, the Earth´s temperatures are expected to increase by 3.1°-3.7°C by the end of the century, negatively affecting the oceans, weather conditions, plants, animals, and consequently, the world´s economy.
In construction, one of the largest and oldest industries in the world, the race to reduce its negative impact on the environment is on, as a fully decarbonized sector could reduce almost half of all carbon emissions into the atmosphere.
How is science helping mitigate the carbon footprint?
Science and innovation in construction go almost hand in hand when we are talking about sustainability. Leading companies have already put their R&D teams to work and are starting to introduce began enforcing new measures in their business models, services and products into their offer in order to comply with the sustainable requirements needed.
For example, CEMEX set in place a sustainable goal of providing net-zero concrete to all its clients globally by 2050. As concrete will play a fundamental role in the transformation the built environment requires to fight against climate change, this goal is one major step for making it happen.
Take a look at this efforts CEMEX and CEMEX Ventures have been pushing in the last years:
CEMEX recently introduced Vertua to its line of offering, a new net- zero CO2 concrete and a direct response to its net-zero ambition, helping the industry lower its carbon footprint. Vertua is already available in markets around the world.
This UK-based startup is a global leader in low-cost CO2 capture technology. Carbon Clean´s patented technology significantly reduces the costs and environmental impact of CO2 separation when compared to existing techniques.
Early in 2021, CEMEX to received a grant from The Department of Energy of the United States to kickstart a pilot project alongside Carbon Clean afurther develop a highly effective and even more cost-effective carbon capture technology in CEMEX´s cement facility in Victorville, California.
Carbon Upcycling Technologies
We partnered with startup Carbon Upcycling Technologies to improve the processing of residue and by-products of industrial processes, capturing CO2 emissions to produce nanomaterials with greater reactivity and a lower carbon footprint.
CEMEX currently uses 3 million tons of industrial residue each year, but plenty gets discarded due to its low reactivity. With the agreement with Carbon Upcycling, CEMEX expects to double its current use of industrial residue to consume annually 6 million tons by 2030, thereby reducing its carbon footprint significantly.
Arqlite, part of our investment portfolio and winners of Construction Startup Competition 2019, developed a technology that processes unrecyclable plastic waste into artificial gravel that avoids the use of natural quarry aggregates and boulders in the production of light concrete with a low CO2 footprint. They recently opened their first big scale facility in Santa Ana, California.
The light aggregates produced by Arqlite represent a great advance in sustainable construction, multiplying thermal and acoustic insulation by ten times compared to mineral aggregates and offering better construction quality and greater energy conservation.
Also from our portfolio, Energy Vault developed a transformative, long-duration energy storage solution to deliver reliable and sustainable electricity. Inspired by pumped hydro plants, their revolutionary technology replaces water with custom made concrete bricks.
They combine their patented system design and control software to allow for the same delivery of a pumped hydro system at a much lower price, without the need for hard-to-find land topography and reduced environmental impact.
This American startup, part of our portfolio and named one of the Top 50 Contech Startups of 2020, created a digital marketplace that connects built professional who need to dispose of soil with those who need it.
Soil Connect matches its user based on distance, enabling them transact at shorter distances, saving thousands of dollars and substantially reducing the construction industry’s carbon footprint by minimizing CO2 emissions and preventing waste to end up in landfills.
CEMEX is currently piloting this solution in Florida, providing users with materials for their projects directly through the app.
CarbiCrete is one of the most promising solutions of 2020. The Montreal-based cleantech company is one of the winners of Construction Startup Competition 2020 and was recognized as one of the Top 50 Contech Startups of 2020. They developed an innovative, low-cost building solutions that contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and enables the production of cement-free, carbon-negative concrete made with industrial by-products and captured carbon dioxide.
These are just a few solutions that combine the power of scientific data, long hours of research & development, and an inspiring drive to foster innovation and sustainability in construction. Want to look into more startups working on sustainable solutions?, “Check our selection in the “Safety and Sustainability” division from the Top 50 Construction Startups.
What can you do to help?
If you are a startup working on a solution that targets sustainability in the sector, we recommend that you:
- Develop a solution that helps reduce the carbon emissions of traditional processes and materials in the construction methods.
- Provide a new and better way to manage the use of resources.
- Incorporate a circular economy approach into the construction process.
- Offer better management of waste, whether its from the construction, demolition, or excavation phases of a project.
As an entrepreneur, it´s important to give an innovative perspective to the industry, yet keeping in mind that this is challenge that affects everyone, not only across the entire construction value chain, but also those that interact with the end product.
Moreso, other solutions that help enhance a building´s productivity can come into play when talking about sustainable solutions that help lower the industry´s carbon footprint. For example, the implementation of sensors in smart buildings to improve it´s energy consumption, temperature regulation or even its interconnectivity of software. You may read more in-depth about the benefits of a smart building in this article to help give you a broader perspective.
How CEMEX Ventures helps?
At CEMEX Ventures, we want to be the eyes of CEMEX on the outside. CEMEX is a legendary company that has been tackling challenges and innovating in the building materials sector since the last century. Naturally, taking on sustainability for the industry became one of the top priorities for the company and at CEMEX Ventures, we jumped in the wave and are constantly on the search of startups and entrepreneurs that offer new business models and solutions that are of benefit to both CEMEX´s clients, and the industry.
As part of our annual Construction Startup Competition, adding Carbon Footprint Mitigation as one of the categories is a clear indicator that this topic has become one of the top priorities and challenges to handle in the built sector. Without a doubt, we know that the startups that submit their solutions in this category are on the brink of transforming the industry for the better and we want to be their link to achieve even greater things.
By applying to the competition, we can guarantee that the team of experts from CEMEX Ventures, Dysruptek, Ferrovial, GS Futures, Hilti, VINCI Group´s Leonard and NOVA by Saint-Gobain will evaluate your solution and find the best way to make it legendary. This is a unique opportunity to take one of the biggest challenges the construction sector is facing today and present your solution to the top companies in the sector with a worldwide scale and say “Hey, I have this for you. Together, we can make a difference in the industry!”.
Do you feel like we are talking directly to you? If the answer is YES, then we want you to submit your startup in Construction Startup Competition today. The application phase will remain open until June 27. We look forward to evaluating your solutions and finding the best way to collaborate, fight against climate change and propel a more sustainable construction industry.