Skip to main content

Cleancrete: What is low-carbon concrete?

Concrete is the world’s most common human-made substance, thanks to its ease of use, robustness, and long-lasting nature. It’s used nearly as much as water for construction.

Cement is vital for concrete but emits a significant 8% of global carbon emissions during production. This carbon footprint has spurred innovation in the concrete industry, leading to a game-changer called Cleancrete, developed in Switzerland, which eliminates the need for cement in making concrete.

Business Energy Comparison Background - Blue
Warehouse energy

How is cement made?

The most prevalent form of cement produced is Ordinary Portland Cement (OPC), produced by subjecting limestone and other raw materials to intense heat, reaching temperatures as high as 1,450°C in a massive kiln. This process, known as calcination, results in the release of substantial volumes of CO2 into the atmosphere.

Moreover, the elevated temperatures required for calcination are achieved by burning fossil fuels such as petroleum coke and coal, generating a powerful, radiant flame. Approximately 60% of the CO2 emissions stem from the chemical calcination process, with the remaining 40% arising from the consumption of fossil fuels to heat the kiln.

When considering associated greenhouse gas emissions, from activities like quarrying and transportation, the cement industry accounts for 8% of global CO2 emissions, nearly equivalent to the entire emissions output of China.

In addition to its carbon dioxide emissions, the cement production process also releases various heavy metals during calcination, as well as causing the emission of dust and noise, which have adverse effects on the local environment.

How is concrete made?

Concrete has risen to prominence as the most widely utilized construction material globally due to its straightforwardness, resilience, robustness, and versatility in diverse applications.

The formulation of traditional concrete can be tailored to meet a diverse array of requirements through the combination of varying proportions of:

  • Cement
  • Chemical additives
  • Sand and gravel
  • Water

This adaptability allows for the production of top-tier concrete on an industrial scale, capable of fulfilling the structural demands of construction projects such as nuclear reactors or hydroelectric dams.

Simultaneously, do-it-yourself enthusiasts can mix traditional concrete at home to address straightforward construction needs, such as repairing garden walls and other modest structures.

Business Energy comparison

Drawing inspiration from traditional Togolese earth construction techniques, Oxara has pioneered an innovative method for producing a concrete-like material that eliminates the need for cement, relying instead on naturally occurring clay and sand.

The production process for Oxara Cleancrete proves to be notably cost-effective and environmentally friendly compared to traditional concrete, as it circumvents the energy-intensive cement manufacturing process.

Oxara asserts that this approach is 2.5 times more economical while concurrently slashing emissions by 90%, presenting a substantial disruption to the carbon dioxide-intensive construction sector.

Design Elements

How is Oxara Cleancrete made?

Cleancrete, much like concrete, is created by blending a few ingredients in the right proportions:

  1. A non-toxic powder additive (the crucial element!)
  2. Various earth materials (like clays, silts, sands, and gravel)
  3. Water

The significant distinction is that these ingredients are much kinder to the environment. Instead of using cement and chemicals,

Cleancrete employs a non-toxic additive derived from mineral salts. This natural additive binds the materials together and imparts structural strength to Cleancrete.

Just like traditional concrete, Cleancrete also requires 24-48 hours to fully harden.

Why is the use of natural earth materials so important?

Cleancrete offers a significant advantage over traditional concrete in its ability to work with a wide variety of earth materials. Unlike traditional concrete, which demands high-quality sand and gravel, It can use materials found on the construction site itself.

This often incurs no extra cost, as the removal of excess soil is a common part of construction projects (such as creating basements, underground parking, or foundations).

Engineers can directly reuse a portion of the excavated, uncontaminated soil, which accounts for about 76% of construction waste in the EU. Additionally, natural soil often contains fine materials like clays and silts that possess thermal properties beneficial for buildings.

This leads to structures that stay cooler in summer and warmer in winter, thereby reducing the long-term energy needs of homes and businesses, whether for heating or air conditioning.

Man with design element above her head stock image

What are the challenges facing Cleancrete?

To begin with, Cleancrete possesses just one-sixth of the strength of traditional concrete. Consequently, its safe application is restricted to smaller structures, such as two-story buildings.

Moreover, as a novel material, Cleancrete must undergo real-world validation to gain the trust of engineers, architects, regulators, and other stakeholders within the construction industry, which tends to be traditionally conservative.

Design Elements

What impact has Cleancrete had on the construction sector?

As countries face mounting pressure to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, the need for new solutions becomes increasingly critical, and Cleancrete’s clear environmental benefits shine in this context.

Its striking resemblance to the traditional concrete mixing process also allows for easy integration into existing infrastructure. Notably, the team has successfully produced a batch of Cleancrete at an industrial concrete factory in Switzerland without requiring any adjustments to machinery or procedures.

This is significant because it minimizes the investment necessary for large-scale implementation, thereby replacing a portion of the carbon-intensive concrete market.

In Zurich, a new apartment block is presently testing Cleancrete. This material offers suitable strength while providing essential thermal properties to reduce heating requirements during a Swiss winter.

Assuming successful trials, there’s no reason to believe Swiss regulators would reject this material, and once approved, it would set a favourable precedent for adoption in other countries, particularly given the stringent nature of Swiss regulations.

Additionally, the “Made in Switzerland” or “Trialled and Tested in Switzerland” label carries strong credibility.

What are the alternatives to green concrete?

Considerable research efforts are underway to address the emissions associated with cement production and to diminish its utilization in construction.

One prominent avenue of research involves the adaptation of green hydrogen for heavy industry. It can be utilized to generate substantial heat energy, effectively powering cement kilns and leading to a significant 40% reduction in the industry’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Additionally, various initiatives are delving into alternative mixtures aimed at reducing the cement content required in green concrete production.

Furthermore, there are endeavours exploring the use of waste materials from other industries to replace certain components, such as sand and chemical additives, in the production of green concrete.

Man with design element above her head stock image

Final Thoughts from Business Energy Comparison

It’s truly inspiring to witness uncomplicated yet ingenious solutions like Cleancrete revolutionizing traditional industries. This demonstrates that safeguarding the planet often relies on embracing simplicity rather than solely pursuing high-tech innovations.

Compare business gas and electricity prices, don’t hesitate to utilize our Business Energy Comparison services.