Part I: “Concrete Masonry Is Sustainable”
Written by Heidi Jandris and Jennifer Wagner. This blog is part of a two-part series. Part II of this blog series is entitled “Concrete Masonry’s Contribution to LEED version 4.
Most designers know that masonry is inherently a green building material. Masonry has many attributes that contribute to its sustainability including protection against rot, mold, and termites. Greater resilience translates into lower maintenance costs and reduced use of virgin materials.Masonry’s strength and ability to withstand severe weather and fire are helping to meet new demands for climate-resistant building materials. Moreover, concrete masonry’s (CMU)’s thermal mass benefits can reduce energy bills and improve thermal comfort in buildings.
Concrete masonry CMU has come a long way, since the term “cinder block” was coined, and there are many aesthetic options for both structural CMU and non-structural veneers. A polished or weathered polished CMU gives a contemporary, and sleek look, where a matte ground finishes areis subtler, and . Ssplit units give a rugged “rock-like” feel. With a wide range of raw materials, textures, and colors and production techniques available, the design possibilities of CMU are endless.
What makes masonry sustainable?
Masonry is strong, proven, resilient, durable, sound-reducing, and beautiful. One of the most important sustainable attributes of CMU is thermal mass, or its ability to absorb and store heat. In the northeast, the best way to utilize the benefits of thermal mass is to help hold the temperature of the conditioned spaces. The energy code recognizes the benefits of thermal mass. In the 2012 IECC, for climate zone 5, the prescriptive requirement for a mass wall is a U-factor of 0.078 (R-11.4). Comparing this to a wood framed assembly, which has a U-factor requirement of 0.064 (R-20), or to a metal building with a U-factor requirement of 0.052 (R-26), utilizing thermal mass reduces the amount of wall insulation required.
Methods to improve masonry’s sustainability
CMU has a lower cement content than poured in place concrete, since it gains additional strength through vibration and compaction, in addition to its cement content. The environmental footprint can be reduced even further using supplementary cementitious materials, or SCMs. One commonly used SCM in the Northeast is slag, a by-product of the steel industry.
Jandris embraces sustainability
Many CMU producers are looking for ways to go above and beyond designer’s expectations by introducing new elements of sustainability into their manufacturing practices. Committed to taking a leadership role in the industry, Jandris has made several changes to their manufacturing process over the last decade, which has improved plant efficiency and also lowered their impact on the environment. They utilize use thermal mass to cool the facility, have lowered their kiln oil consumption by half and introduced a closed loop system in their wet finishing facility to conserve water. Since installing solar panels, they offset CO2 emissions by 949 tons after the first year of installation. Jandris has also performed several upgradeds to their manufacturing process which allows them tto consume less Portland cement while maintaining required CMU strengths, further lowering CO2 emissions. Jandris has also invested in developing 3rd party verified EPDs for each of their mix designs. This has helped Jandris identify potential inefficiencies in their operations.
The next frontier in sustainability: sequestered CO2
In March 2015, Jandris installed CarbonCure’s CO2 recycling technology into their Gardner, MA production plant. Jandris is now one of among 36 concrete producers across Canada and the US that is using this innovative technology to make better building products.
The next frontier in sustainability: sequestered CO2. One of the more recent approaches to reducing masonry’s environmental impact is through the use of technologies that sequester waste carbon dioxide directly into masonry. CarbonCure’s technology recycles CO2 carbon dioxide from smokestacks and injects it into masonry during production. The CO2 is injected into the masonry during mixing, where it gets converted into solid calcium carbonate. This means that the CO2 is chemically converted into a stone within the masonry, and will never be released. The resulting masonry products have a lower carbon footprint, and are now being specified by leading designers in Massachusetts.
What does this mean for my projects?
CMU is a sustainable building material that has endless design possibilities. Look for the second article in this two-part series which will dive into how CMU can contribute to points in the newthe changes in LEED v4 , and how masonry can contribute to points in this new framework.
Heidi Jandris, LEED Green Associate, provides technical and design services for A. Jandris & Sons, Inc., a family owned structural and architectural concrete masonry manufacturer located in Massachusetts. A. Jandris & Sons is the first CMU manufacturer on the East Coast to have 3rd party verified environmental product declarations (EPDs) for each of their mix designs. Heidi was the Chair of the National Concrete Masonry Association’s (NCMA) EPD Task Group which developed the product category rules for the concrete masonry industry, and is current chair of the NCMA Education Committee. She grew up immersed in the industry, and earned a Bachelor of Architecture degree from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY. email@example.com | 978.632.0089
Jennifer Wagner, LEED Green Associate and Vice President of Sustainability at Halifax-based CarbonCure Technologies, addresses architects, engineers and developers. She has helped company licensees issue the first Environmental Product Declarations (EPD) and Health Product Declarations (HPD) in the concrete industry. She is a Canadian Standards Association-certified GHG (greenhouse gas) inventory quantifier, LEED Green Associate and sits on the board of directors for the Health Product Declaration Collaborative and formerly the Atlantic Chapter of the Canada Green Building Council. Wagner holds a BSc from McGill University, an MSc in Chemistry and an MBA from Dalhousie University. firstname.lastname@example.org | 902.442.4020