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  • Matt Kennedy-Good

Living buildings and circular concrete

Updated: Apr 27, 2022

Since the Roman empire two thousand years ago concrete has been the rock we've build our civilization on. Concrete's qualities are so highly regarded that it's become part of our language - something is "concrete" if it is strong, enduring and reliable.

One thing concrete is not famous for is its environmental friendliness - largely because of the huge greenhouse gas emissions from the manufacture of cement. We founded Neocrete to change this. We want to make concrete a truly sustainable building choice.

Instead of emitting carbon into our atmosphere, imagine the buildings and infrastructure around us sequestering it. Instead of rain damaging these buildings, imagine them using the rain water to self-heal cracks.

Zarina (middle), Michael Khrapko (far left) with the team at Callaghan Innovation, after a busy day in the lab.

Imagine buildings as living, breathing organisms. For Neocrete this is not sci-fi fantasy, this is our business plan.

As a industry, we've made significant progress towards our carbon goals already. With help from leadership by Concrete NZ, New Zealand reduced emissions from the production/consumption of cement by 15% between 2005 and 2018, largely as a result of alternative kiln fuels and improved manufacturing efficiency. Concrete NZ is aiming for an ambitious 30% reduction on 2005 levels by 2030.

We think we can move faster.

Neocrete can already reduce the embodied carbon in concrete by over 40% - as shown in our pre cast panels poured with Lattey (we achieved an almost 50% reduction in carbon in lab tests with Callaghan Innovation - pictured above).

This is just the beginning. With an ambitions R&D programme, by 2030 we want concrete made with D5 Green (ie "Neocrete") to be carbon neutral. Shortly after that we're aiming for Neocrete to become increasingly carbon negative.

We aim to achieve this by continuing to improve the potency of D5 Green, while adding supporting materials such as natural pozzolans and recycled materials.

We also want to better understand how to maximise and quantify the amount of carbon that concrete absorbs over its lifetime. Because Neocrete is waterproof (appraised by BRANZ), it's more able to absorb carbon than concretes that are painted or covered. When Neocrete gets wet, it also self heals cracks - reducing ongoing maintenance.

On 12 April 2022 Neocrete was stoked to be part of the launch of Sustainable Business Network's Circular Economy Directory. We see this as a commitment to moving as fast as we can to make concrete a solution to our climate crisis.

It's a tough challenge, but with help from our partners, we're taking big, concrete steps to get there :)


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