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Concrete: LCA

Life Cycle of the Indian Concrete Industry
Chaitanya Raj Goyal
ife cycle assessment (LCA) is today's sustainability buzzword, and the industry is filled with lively debate about its impact. As many rating systems like LEED, etc. find their place in the movement, increasing emphasis is placed upon the importance of examining all aspects of a structure. These include not just the building itself, but the embodied energy of materials, the long-term effects of manufacturing processes, the stages of construction, building performance and operations, durability and maintenance of existing structures, and in the end - demolition, materials recycling, and future land use corollary.

Even though, 80% of a building's CO2 emissions are generated not by the production of materials used in its construction, but in the electric utilities over its life-cycle, one building material, which just cannot be ignored is Cement Concrete and neither can one overlook a developing nation which is producing more than 300 million cubic meter of it per annum! Indian Cement Concrete Industry: Current times Concrete witnesses a production of 10 billion tons each year worldwide. The total concrete market in India is estimated at 300-350 million cubic meters

per annum, of which the commercial plant produced share is 55-65 million cubic meters. Industry players estimate that this share is expected to go up gradually from the present level of less than 9% of the total cement production to the global average of 7075%. A comparison of concrete production figures from different countries also reveals that the organized Indian concrete industry is the third largest concrete industry in the world. This industry occupies an important place in the Indian economy because of its strong linkages to sectors such as construction, transportation, coal and power. The growth of Indian


The Masterbuilder - July 2013

Concrete: LCA

cement industry also substantiates the growth of country's concrete sector. India is the second largest producer of quality cement in the world, and its cement industry comprises 183 large cement plants and over 365 mini cement plants. Currently, there are 40 players across the country and the industry is expected to add 30-40 million tonnes per annum (MTPA) of capacity in 2013 from the existing capacity of 324 MTPA, operating at 75-80 per cent utilization. Therefore, in view of the growth that the concrete sector in India is undergoing, and the large share it claims in international concrete industry, it is imperative that industry leaders realize their accountability towards global sustainability concerns and improve their focus on life cycle of concrete manufactured and used in India. Production: How does concrete fit in the big picture? Stepped on for hundreds of years, concrete rarely gets the respect it deserves. Perhaps the most omnipresent building material, its manufacturing is also among the most energy-consuming and polluting industrial processes and analysts expect greenhouse gas emissions from global concrete production to become a considerable contributor to climate change in the next 20 years. Even though concrete compares favorably to other building materials such as steel, wood and asphalt while analyzing energy consumption and CO2 emissions but when it comes to sustainable development, there is always an opportunity for improvement and this is especially applicable in case of India. For a variety of reasons, the concrete construction industry is not sustainable; the three prime reasons being: 1. Resource productivity this industry is the largest consumer of virgin materials such as sand, gravel, crushed rock, and fresh water. It is consuming Portland and modified Portland cements at an annual rate of more than a billion metric tons. The cement production in turn consumes vast amounts of limestone and clay.

Cement Production accounts for nearly 7% of global greenhouse gas emissions

Obviously, large amounts of energy and materials, in addition to financial resources, are wasted when structures deteriorate or fail prematurely which, in fact, has been the case with some recently built reinforced concrete bridges, buildings and other structures in India. 2. Cement manufacturing - The principal binder in concrete is Portland cement, the production of which is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. The popular Portland cement

mixes a powder of alumina, silica, lime, iron oxide, and magnesium oxide, which is then heated at temperatures up to 1,450 degrees Celsius. Heating and grinding the cement materials consumes an average of 4-5 gigajoules of energy per cement ton. The industry as a whole uses billions of gigajoules each year. Cement production-through cement plant's fossilbased energy consumption, the CO2 burned off when limestone is heated,
Concrete additive

Water Cement


Recycling as gravel replacement Concrete granules

Ready-mix concrete Building construction = processing


Lifetime of building

Dismantling Life Cycle of Concrete (Source: BMG Engineering) The Masterbuilder - July 2013


Concrete: LCA

associated vehicle use, and other factors account for nearly 7% of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. Other parts of the manufacturing process such as operating mining equipment for extracting the raw materials and transportation of the raw materials to the cement plant emit relatively small amounts of CO2. 3. Durability - Many concrete structures suffer from lack of durability, which has an adverse effect on the resource productivity of the industry. In India, most concrete is produced by conventional methods instead of using latest methods and equipment at most of the construction sites and these results in: Inadequate control on aggregates for size, shape and grading Optimum Water-cement ratio not followed Labor-intensive production Time consuming and unorganized operation Wastage of costly input materials Dust pollution

durability of concrete. Prevalent corruption and unethical practices in the Indian construction industry also contribute immensely to this cause. Benefits of Concrete: Time to capitalize Concrete also brings numerous lasting benefits that many believe far outweigh the front-end energy problems associated with it. This is because locally available materials for production mean less transportation and pollution, and it also offers high thermal mass, contributing to energy efficiency and comfort. Most concrete structures today are designed for a 100-year life span which increases the period between reconstruction, repair and maintenance. Also, the material's light color can provide reflectivity that reduces air conditioning loads and helps reduce the urban heat island effect. Moreover, when a concrete structure is demolished, much of the material can be recycled. Furthermore, a significant portion of the CO2 produced during manufacturing of cement is reabsorbed into concrete during the product life cycle through a process called carbonation. One research study estimates that bet-

ween 33% and 57% of the CO2 emitted from calcination will be reabsorbed through carbonation of concrete surfaces over a 100-year life cycle. Despite all such benefits, the industry in India is still struggling to capitalize on the inherent and researched benefits of this amazing material and as discussed before, even though concrete is an environmentally friendly choice with one of the lowest carbon footprints among building materials, there is always scope for growth when it comes to conserving the environment and preventing adverse climatic changes! From production to demolition: Doing it better A sustainable concrete structure is one that is constructed so that the total societal impact during its entire life cycle is minimal and therefore, the lifecycle cost analysis process must evaluate energy use and environmental impact during the entire life of concrete. This process must include extracting and processing raw materials, manufacturing, transporting, maintaining, recycling, and returning to the environment. Costs and benefits must be evaluated and understood in both the short term and the long term. It does not take a genius to understand that a large-scale mechanization for production of engineered concrete with mineral and chemical admixtures, with the right quality control scheme, can lead to better sustainability of concrete in India. There are some worthy solutions which if comprehensively, strictly, skillfully and ethically implemented, can help the industry actually 'do it better'! Industrial ecology - achieving improvement in resource productivity through durability enhancement of products is, of course, a long-term solution for sustainable development. A short-term strategy that must be pursued simultaneously is to practice industrial ecology at a larger scale than is the case today. Simply defined, the practice of industrial ecology by a manufacturing industry involves the reclamation and

Each of these shortcoming's results into a life cycle implication in some form and they take a major toll on the

Cement - 5 mm

Fly Ash - 12 mm

Silica Fume - 5 mm

Ultra-Fine Fly Ash - 5 mm

Many mineral admixtures can be used to partially replace cement in concrete


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Concrete: LCA

re-use of its own waste products and, to the extent possible, the waste products of other industries, which are unable to recycle them in their own manufacturing process. Reportedly, over a billion ton of construction and demolition waste is generated every year. Cost-effective technologies are available to recycle most of the waste as a partial replacement for the coarse aggregate in fresh concrete mixtures. Similarly, industrial waste waters and non-potable waters can substitute for municipal water for mixing concrete unless proven harmful by testing. Blended Portland cements containing fly ash from coal-fired power plants, silica fumes, and ground-granulated slag from the blast-furnace iron industry provide excellent examples of industrial ecology because they offer a holistic solution for reducing the environmental impact of several industries. The construction industry already uses concrete mixtures containing cement replacement materials, such as 15% to 30% fly ash or 30% to 40% slag by mass. With conventional mate-

rials and technology; it is now possible to produce high-performance concrete mixtures containing 50% to 60% fly ash by mass of the blended cementitious material. Also, the cement industry can reduce its own waste by recycling more than 75 percent of cement kiln dust (CKD) directly back into the cement kiln as raw material. By doing so, manufacturers can conserve energy and reduce the use of limestone and other virgin raw materials. P2P Initiative (Prescriptive to Performance Specifications for Concrete)although the use of modern plant and equipment in the production, delivery and placement of concrete has increased in India, this has not matched improvement in the concrete specifications. On a majority of the construction jobs, concrete is still specified by its 28day compressive strength and slump at pour location. A mention is also made regarding the use of pump or otherwise during placement. Other mechanical properties of concrete, namely, flexural strength, tensile strength, modulus of

elasticity, shrinkage, creep, etc. are hardly specified. It must be realized that today concrete is no longer a mere mixture of cement, aggregates and water. Now-adays, concrete produced from readymixed concrete facility incorporates more than one variety of mineral and chemical admixtures and with their use the designing of concrete mixes has become more complex. This is because the use of different admixtures affects most of the properties of concrete in its fresh and hardened states, such as workability and workability retention, compatibility between cement and superplasticizer, compressive strength development, later age strengths, setting time, resistance to ingress of aggressive chemicals, etc. Therefore, it is difficult to write prescriptive specifications that encompass these developments. Further, in recent years, it has been observed that many structures constructed strictly following prescriptive specifications have necessarily not performed well, especially with regards to their durabil-

RMC can deliver high quality, durable and green concrete


The Masterbuilder - July 2013

Concrete: LCA

ity. There is thus an urgent need to for a change in specifications from prescriptive to performance. Performance specifications provide concrete producers more flexibility to optimize concrete mixtures for intended performance and thus reduce the environmental impact, including CO2 emissions. Traditionally, construction specifications for concrete have required unnecessarily high quantities of Portland cement along with other limits on the use of supplementary cementitious materials. These limits are incorporated in the industry's standards and specifications. The P2P Initiative proposes to eliminate many of these limits and evolve to performancebased standards. Adopting Ready Mix Concrete - it wouldn't be wrong to say that quality and durability always take the back seat in Indian construction industry along with eco friendly and ethical practices. This is substantiated by the fact that in India, the captive consumption of cement through RMC is just hovering around 7-8% of the total cement

produced. The capacity utilizations are in the range of just 30-45%, indicating severe underutilization; the operating margins are in the range of 4-6% and the ROCE for most cement companies in RMC business is negative. All this is probably because the cost of RMC is 20% higher than that produced at site by mixing machines and 12% higher than that produced at site by large Batching Plants. But what many fail to understand is that with RMC one can achieve almost 15.5% savings in construction costs in terms of factors such as quality & wastage-avoidance and the claimed service life of 100 years can actually be established. Furthermore, even though there is a separate code on ready-mixed concrete (IS 4926:2003), it is unfortunate that cognizance of this code is not taken in many contracts. Even when using RMC, on many occasions, reference is made to only IS 456, the BIS specification on plain and reinforced concrete. The quality control process in IS 4926:2003 has been divided into three components, forward Control, Im-

mediate Control and Retrospective Control' and therefore, prepares Indian RMC manufacturers for producing and supplying best quality green and durable concrete using a variety of mineral and chemical admixtures. Conclusion Material science has a lot of potential to revolutionize the technological scenario in various walks of life towards cost-effectiveness and quality improvement. Today Concrete technology is revolutionized globally, but India has to yet to catch up with the advancements. The key is in the hands of professionals and builders and one need to use the key to reach and avail the treasure of durability. To achieve the objective of incorporating sustainability will be a herculean task. To start with, reasonably accurate data is required, which is woefully lacking and reliable information on rudimentary data like the total concrete production is difficult to obtain. The cement industry also needs to play a critical role in helping attain the desired targets. Indian cement manufacturers need to improve the energy efficiency of the entire manufacturing process by upgrading plants with state-of-the-art equipment and should improve product formulation to reduce energy of production and minimize the use of natural resources. Also, more research needs to be conducted on cement and concrete towards improving their energy efficiency and durability. It is to be expected that rating systems such as the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) system and ECBC (Energy Conservation Building Code) will become the norm in near future, and material suppliers such as concrete producers will be pressed to compete on the basis of environmentally friendly principles, that is, reduced energy consumption, reduced life-cycle costs, and the use of recycled materials. There is reason to believe that the concrete industry is well positioned for success, given the tools outlined herein.

With RMC one can achieve almost 15.5% savings in construction costs


The Masterbuilder - July 2013