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Industry's concrete experts putting 'green' in the mix.

Fly ash and slag, words that may sound like the partial lyrics to a new country western song, are a few more terms stirred into the green mix at a Concrete Promotional Council's LEED seminar held last week at the New York Athletic Club.

The seminar brought some of the industry's top contractors, engineers, architects and developers to discuss both ways the concrete core of the city's streets and buildings can be made more sustainable, and how recycled materials can score projects more LEED points with the United States Green Building Council.

In an era when we are discovering that most of the past materials we have used in our carpets and paints and flooring have the potential to make us sick, concrete is a relatively benign substance.

However traditional concrete is made with cement, and cement production is a major energy consumer and source of greenhouse gas emissions.

Traditional concrete uses a large proportion of water. The battalion of concrete mixers and trucks on the road during the construction boom pollutes the air.

Panelists discussed ways to make concrete less taxing on the environment, such as using recycled materials like fly ash in concrete, thus reducing the cement content; advocating for mixed fuels in trucks; and building more semi-permeable sidewalks that allow water to pass to the ground.

"We have to find ways to take more responsibility for our actions. Asthma rates in some places in the city are four times the national average. The construction industry is a large contributor to these rates," said Laurie Kerr, of the New York City office of long term planning and sustainability.

Recycled materials incorporated into concrete such as fly ash -a powder recovered from coal fired electric power plants -and slag--a residue recovered from metal smelting--require less cement. When these materials are recycled into concrete, they increase its density, requiring less cement and less water. Though fly ash and swag have been used in governmental projects for decades, they have been less commonly used in smaller scale commercial and residential projects.

That's about to change however. New York City's Department of Design and Construction recently mandated the use of fly ash or swag in concrete in all new projects.

Most larger developers, such as the Albanese Organization, are using concrete containing some portion of fly ash in their green building projects.

Fly ash in concrete is reputed to be easier to work with and have superior insulation qualities.

"Despite all the catch phrases, all the imagery attached tO, and fancy talk associated with LEED certification and green building, when you are talking about building a better wall, a good solid wall, a well insulated wall, you are using the same basic concepts architects have been using for thousands of years," said Martin Dettling, chair of the New York City Chapter of the Green Building Council and vice president of the Albanese Organization.

Panelists also discussed the transport of concrete on the road, use of green fuels and the expansion of Local Law 77, which encourages the use of low sulfur fuels.

Another type of concrete that makes a better, more sustainable project, includes semi-permeable sidewalks, those which capture some water while letting the rest of the water seep into the ground surface. Semi-permeable sidewalks can help prevent combined sewer overflows and help tree roots stay healthy. This technique has been employed at a few city projects such as the Queens Botanical Garden and Sunrise Yards, a New York City Department of Transportation maintenance facility.

"In terms of energy savings, if you are not doing this already you are going to have something like a deficient building," Dettling said.
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Comment:Industry's concrete experts putting 'green' in the mix.
Author:Wolffe, Danielle
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Nov 7, 2007
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