Reducing Carbon Emissions by Buildings with Less Concrete

Reducing Carbon Emissions by Buildings with Less Concrete

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Concrete emissions in construction refer to the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production and use of concrete, which is responsible for 8 percent of the world’s CO2 emissions.

Apart from the emissions that result from the transportation of materials, the main culprit is cement. Cement is the main component of concrete and is a byproduct of heating limestone and other minerals to high temperatures in a kiln. In order to produce the necessary heat to decompose this limestone, fossil fuels are often burned and produce CO2.

However, according to a press release by MIT, PhD student Jackson Jewett may have found the solution to reduce these emissions. Currently in the third year of his PhD, his dissertation work focuses on further developing algorithms that can design concrete structures that use less material, reducing carbon emissions from the construction sector.

According to Interesting Engineering, this process is known as “topology optimization,” and uses algorithms to create structures that meet a building’s performance requirements while consuming minimal resources.

Jewett states that he has spent the last couple of months working on a reinforced concrete optimization algorithm that he hopes will be the cornerstone of his thesis, but the process is long and difficult.

He is currently seeking materially efficient components that can be utilized to construct structures like bridges and buildings (which he does through computational power), making sure the manufacturing cost isn’t too expensive.

“The time horizon of when these things need to be implemented is relatively short if we want to make an impact before global temperatures have already risen too high,” explains Jewett, and adds “My PhD research will be developing a framework for how that could be done with concrete construction, but I’d like to keep thinking about other materials and construction methods even after this project is finished.”