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PCA launches ‘Shaped by Concrete’ campaign

Published by , Deputy Editor
World Cement,

The Portland Cement Association (PCA) has announced the launch of ‘Shaped by Concrete’, a new educational campaign to increase awareness of the sustainability, resilience and durability of concrete made with cement. The campaign will feature stories based on these themes, exploring how these construction materials shape the world around us to make our communities, cities and country better. With impacts from climate change, growing populations and accelerating urbanisation creating demand for safe, affordable housing, PCA believes it is an important time to explain how and why concrete became – and continues to be – the material of choice for many types of construction.

“As we prepare for the challenges future generations face, concrete will be even more critical to building a sustainable world for tomorrow,” said Mike Ireland, president and CEO of the Portland Cement Association. “Concrete is the most durable, resilient, available and affordable material in the built environment, supporting sustainable economic, social and environmental development priorities, and the ‘Shaped by Concrete’ campaign is how we’ll tell that story to stakeholders and partners.”

‘Shaped by Concrete’ will focus on key themes often overlooked and underrepresented in conversations and media coverage of cement and concrete, including their ability to meet sustainable development goals, decrease costs from natural disasters, and assist with key societal challenges, such as the US housing crisis.


Concrete, made with the key ingredient cement, is the most widely used man-made material in existence. It is second only to water as the most-consumed resource on earth. Once mixed, it can be moulded into nearly any shape or use. As a sustainable building material, concrete provides energy efficiency, lower life-cycle costs and resilience following natural and man-made disasters.

Compared to other building materials, concrete is a low-impact material, with the amount of energy consumed to extract, refine, process, transport and fabricate, as well as the amount of carbon to produce it being lower than other building materials.

However, because of its characteristics as a building material and the ability to readily use it, concrete is used in a significantly larger portion of construction – nearly all buildings – than other materials. America’s cement manufacturers have undertaken significant efforts to address its impact on climate change. Cement producers have a strong culture of innovation that has led to a 35% reduction in the amount of energy used to produce a metric ton of cement over the last 47 years. Company-driven improvements have also led to the increased use of alternative fuels. Alternative fuels, such as industrial by-products that otherwise would end up in landfills, now represent more than 15% of total cement plant energy consumption in the US.

Further, exposed concrete (such as roads, buildings, runways, sidewalks, etc.) continually absorbs carbon from the atmosphere and captures it forever, known as carbonation, offsetting emissions from its initial creation. Cement and concrete enable emissions reductions in other industries too. Concrete is an excellent insulator, keeping buildings warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer, thereby reducing building emissions. When used as a pavement, concrete has a much longer lifespan than other materials, requiring less maintenance and ensuring smooth, stiff roads, which improve vehicle fuel efficiency.

“The industry has made major progress toward making concrete more sustainable, and it continues to push the boundaries of energy efficiency and emissions reductions through new research, technology and innovations,” said Jeremy Gregory, Executive Director, Concrete Sustainability Hub at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “Concrete will play a critical role in further decarbonisation of the built environment, and I’m excited to see the stories of those advancements from ‘Shaped by Concrete’.”


Concrete structures play a critical role in making communities stronger and safer. Concrete improves durability of structures because it doesn’t burn, rust or rot, and is resistant to natural disasters including fire, wind, water and vibrations. This is important in the face of increasing numbers of catastrophic weather events, where safe shelter during and after disasters can mean the difference between life and death. That increased durability also provides economic benefits, especially in disaster-prone areas: every US$1 spent on resilient building and construction can save US$6 in recovery costs according to a recent study by the National Institute of Building Sciences. Considering that in 2017, the 16 largest weather events each caused over US$1 billion in damage.

Just as concrete plays a key role in the revitalisation of infrastructure, so too does the industry serve as a driver of economic growth and a building block of the construction industry. Cement and concrete manufacturing directly or indirectly employ approximately 600 000 people in the US, and the collective industries contribute approximately US$100 billion to the economy.

“From national security concerns to durability and safety in the face of natural and man-made disasters to enabling economic growth, cement and concrete make our communities more resilient,” said Tom Beck, PCA Chairman and President of Continental Cement. “‘Shaped by Concrete’ will help our industry show these important benefits and ensure cement and concrete continue to keep our nation safe, secure and prosperous.”

A solid foundation

Cement and concrete have been foundations in advancing society from the earliest of civilisations dating back to structures that are nearly 2000 years old, such as the Pantheon and Colosseum in Rome.

Today, the US’ most significant investments in infrastructure, transportation, culture and development were built with cement and concrete. Infrastructure projects like the Hoover Dam and the Los Angeles aqueduct helped shape the Western United States. The country’s transportation system, from the Metro system in the capital to the many airports that connect our world, show how cement and concrete are part of our lives every day.

“We are excited to share bold, compelling stories of how we can make the world a better place, shaped by concrete,” said Ireland.

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