Concrete Is One of the World’s Worst Pollutants. Making It Green Is a Booming Business.
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Concrete Is One of the World’s Worst Pollutants. Making It Green Is a Booming Business.

The material accounts for more than 7% of global carbon emissions, according to some estimates

By KONRAD PUTZIER
Wed, Mar 13, 2024 8:45amGrey Clock 3 min

Bill Gates , Jeff Bezos and former Los Angeles Laker Rick Fox are part of a new wave of investors and entrepreneurs looking to make one of the world’s worst pollutants greener.

Concrete accounts for more than 7% of global carbon emissions, according to some estimates. That is roughly the same as the CO undefined produced by all of India and more than double the amount produced by the global aviation industry.

Most of those emissions are caused by cement, the glue that binds together sand and gravel to make the concrete used to build roads, bridges and tall buildings.

Concrete, the second-most-used material in the world after water, is popular because it is cheap, relatively easy to produce, fire-resistant and extremely strong.

“It’s the most democratic material,” said Admir Masic , an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

It is also very, very dirty. Cement is made by heating limestone and clay at around 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit in giant kilns and turning them into marble-sized granules called clinker, which are then turned into a powder and mixed with other materials. As it heats up, the limestone releases a lot of CO undefined , and the whole process is often powered by fossil fuels such as coal or gas.

Big cement producers and startups including Brimstone and Partanna, a startup based in the Bahamas and headed by three-time NBA champion Fox, are developing new technologies to produce cement while producing less CO undefined . Breakthrough Energy Ventures, which was founded by Gates and is backed by Bezos, Jack Ma and Michael Bloomberg among others, Fifth Wall and other venture firms have poured tens of millions of dollars into these companies.

These companies are being motivated in part by the federal government, which is dishing out grants and setting aside billions to decarbonise materials such as cement. Local regulators are also encouraging these new technologies. California in 2021 passed a law to cut emissions from cement and New York in 2023 issued rules that limit emissions on concrete used in state-funded construction projects.

Some companies are trying to make cement from different materials that are less polluting. Brimstone said it developed a way to make cement from rocks that contain no carbon. The company said it has raised around $60 million in venture funding to date.

Others are selling substitutes for cement so that concrete mixers need less of it. Eco Material Technologies, for example, harvests coal ash from landfills and volcanic ash from mines and sells it to concrete mixers. These substitutes aren’t new, but the company says it has worked out ways to increase its share in concrete.

“Our goal is to be able to use the last several generations of trash as the next several generations of greener concrete,” said CEO Grant Quasha .

Still others are removing pollutants from the air. The Halifax, Nova Scotia-based startup CarbonCure came up with a process to pump CO undefined into concrete as it is being made and raised $80 million in venture funding this past year.

CarbonCure pumps CO2 into concrete as it is being made. PHOTO: KENT NISHIMURA FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Partanna, which uses brine from saltwater desalination to make concrete, said homes made from its material suck carbon out of the air.

It is unclear if the greener concrete alternatives will ever catch on broadly. Building codes have rigid rules on what concrete must contain, and many builders don’t like to try out new materials, Masic said.

Cost is another issue. Eco Material’s most environmentally friendly cement alternative, for example, costs around twice as much as standard cement, according to Quasha. CEO Cody Finke said Brimstone’s cement will be as cheap or cheaper than the common sort, but the company has yet to build a factory.

“If I go to the developing world and tell them you’re going to have to pay 20% more for your cement, they won’t do it,” said Eric Toone , a managing partner at Breakthrough Energy Ventures.

Even if some of these new technologies succeed, the startups have yet to prove that they can produce green cement at the vast quantities needed to make a dent in global warming.

Still, Toone said cement makers have no choice but to find cheap ways to cut emissions because ditching the material isn’t an option.

“Cement is sort of this wonder material,” he said. “It’s so cheap, it’s so valuable, it’s so good for what we need that it’s really hard to think of ways around it.”



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Australia’s top 10 most affordable regional property markets investors should watch

Whether you prefer the country or the coast, there are plenty of east coast options for cashed up buyers

By Bronwyn Allen
Fri, Apr 19, 2024 3 min

There are 10 local council areas scattered along the East Coast of Australia that offer both affordability and solid fundamentals for sustainable future growth, according to the research team at residential property network, PRD. The areas have been selected based on five criterion. They are affordability – defined as a median house price below $600,000, rising house values, strong rental yields to encourage investment, a strong pipeline of residential, commercial and infrastructure projects to facilitate local economic development, and low unemployment.

Here are Australia’s 10 most affordable regional property markets with great future potential.

Mackay, QLD

Mackay is a tropical coastal area located in north Queensland. It’s known for its closeconnection to the Great Barrier Reef. The median house price is $462,750, up 8.9 percent in 2023. Mackay attracts a lot of interstate migrants and is home to more than 120,000 people. It has a healthy economy with an unemployment rate of 3.7 percent and $1.7 billion worth of projects due to commence this year.

Toowoomba, QLD

The Toowoomba median house price was up 10.9 percent in 2023.

Toowoomba is located west of Brisbane and is known for its Victorian buildings, street artand surrounding national parks. The median house price is $560,000, up 10.9 percent in 2023. The city has a population of more than 180,000. The unemployment rate is 4 percentand there is $6.1 billion in projects commencing in 2024.

Townsville, QLD

Townsville is a coastal city in north-eastern Queensland. The median house price is $420,000, up 5 percent in 2023. It is home to more than 200,000 people. Unemployment is very low at 2.5 percent and there is $3.2 billion of projects commencing this year.

Dubbo, NSW

Dubbo is located west of Newcastle in the Orana Region and is home to the Western Plains Zoo. The median house price is $530,000, up 11.6 percent in 2023. The population has exploded in recent years to more than 56,000 people. The unemployment rate is just 2.2percent and the economy is thriving. There is a pipeline of $4.7 billion in projects commencing this year.

Tamworth, NSW

Located in north-east NSW, Tamworth is known for its popular annual Country Music Festival. It’s also the largest retail centre for the New England and Northwest Slopes regions. The median house price is $490,000, up 14 percent in 2023. With a population of more than 65,000 people, the economy is strong with unemployment of just 2 percent and $112.4million worth of projects commencing this year.

Griffith, NSW

Located west of Sydney and northwest of Canberra, Griffith is known for its prime produce production and wine cultivation. The median house price is $531,000, up 2.1 percent in 2023. Griffith’s population is about 27,000 people. The city boasts high economic resilience with a 2 percent unemployment rate and $258.7 million in projects in the pipeline.

Ballarat, VIC

Ballarat, Victoria

Ballarat is a 1.5hour drive west of Melbourne. It’s popular with city commuters who move here for housing affordability and a relaxed lifestyle with easy access to the city via train. The median house price is $570,000, down 4.2 percent in 2023 but up 92.9 percent over the past decade. The city has the third highest population in Victoria at about 118,000. Ballarat has an unemployment rate of 3 percent and a total projects pipeline worth $2.3 billion for 2024.

Shepparton, VIC

Shepparton is a rural area about two hours north of Melbourne. It is popularly referred to as the food bowl of Australia. The median house price is $475,000, up 4.4 percent in 2023. The population is about 70,000. The unemployment rate is just 2 percent and there is $1.8 billion in projects for 2024.

Wodonga, VIC

Wodonga is located on the border of NSW on the southern side of the Murray River. It is approximately 320km from Melbourne and 345km from Canberra. The median house price is $567,250, up 4.7 percent in 2023. With a population of about 44,000, the city’s jobless rate is 3 percent and there is $388.2 million in development set to commence in 2024, primarily new infrastructure.

Burnie, TAS

Burnie is a bustling port city located in Emu Bay in Tasmania’s north-west. Overlooking beaches and parklands, the area is known for its rich agriculture and mining projects. The median house price is $435,000, up 3.6 percent. Despite a rising population, the unemployment rate is falling and is currently 5.6 percent. In 2024, Burnie’s project pipeline is valued at approximately $1.6 billion. A significant portion is commercial development, primarily renewable energy projects.

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11 ACRES ROAD, KELLYVILLE, NSW

This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

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