The Manitoba Industry-Academia Partnership (MI-AP) hosted an AIMday Construction meeting on April 8, 2021. Leaders from industry and academia in Manitoba came together to discuss the development and implementation of new technologies and processes in construction practice.
One theme that emerged from several questions was environmentally sustainable practices in construction. There is substantial interest from within the industry, as well as the scientific community, to enable more sustainable building. Nicholas Legal, representing Lafarge, one of Canada’s largest providers of construction materials, submitted a question about increasing the use of sustainable materials in concrete structure specifications. According to a 2020 report from the United Nations environment programme, concrete is expected to make up 12 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions by 2060[i], and therefore, it is an important target for carbon-reduction strategies.
Concrete consists of a mixture of cement, water and “aggregates,” such as sand, gravel, and crushed stone. The use of recycled aggregates in concrete development is a noteworthy trend in the construction industry. Some examples of recycled aggregates being used today are fly ash (derived from coal) and steel slag. Lafarge has made this a focus in their concrete production, reporting that 24% of their cement contained recycled content in 2021, with the goal of 30% by 2030.[ii] Also, the Cement Association of Canada has committed to delivering net-zero concrete by 2050.[iii] Ongoing research is being conducted on new types of aggregates, and at what concentrations, for cement production that is comparable or superior to that of conventional, unsustainable methods.
Kristopher Maranchuk, Applied Research Chair in Skilled Trades and Technologies at Red River College Polytech (RRCP) joined the AIMday conversation and over the course of one hour, ideas for a joint project began to take shape. The resulting project involved RRCP faculty working with Lafarge to develop a research plan surrounding General Use and Portland-Limestone cements (GUL) and supplementary cementing materials (SCM) use in concrete. Students from RRCP’s Applied Research Project program were involved; they conducted a literature review of GUL and SCM use across the industry and a project inventory of where these materials are currently being used in Manitoba and across Canada.
Kristopher and his team also conducted physical research on various aggregate materials, and their different concentrations, to find out how they affected concrete strength, air content, and slump. This work resulted in valuable contributions to current understandings of concrete development, as well as identified areas for future research.
What began as a project with Lafarge expanded to other companies in the construction industry as well: CityMix, Building Products & Concrete Supply, Concrete Manitoba, City of Winnipeg, and Manitoba Transportation and Infrastructure were involved in aspects of the project, from cataloguing existing practices to testing new products. By and large, the concrete production industry in Manitoba as a whole will benefit from the new partnerships formed from this innovative collaboration.
[i] United Nations Environment Programme (2020). 2020 Global Status Report for Buildings and Construction: Towards a Zero-emission, Efficient and Resilient Buildings and Construction Sector. Nairobi. https://globalabc.org/sites/default/files/inline-files/2020%20Buildings%20GSR_FULL%20REPORT.pdf
[ii] Holcim Ltd. (2021) Holcim Sustainability Performance Report 2021. Switzerland. https://www.holcim.com/sites/holcim/files/2022-04/25022022-sustainability-performance_fy_2021_report-en.pdf