To address the sustainability and environmental implications of the use of concrete as the backbone of buildings and infrastructure, The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in collaboration with the Portland Cement Association (PCA) and Ready Mixed Concrete (RMC) Research & Education Foundation, recently established the Concrete Sustainability Hub (CSH) research center.

The goal of the research center is to accelerate emerging breakthroughs in concrete science and engineering and transfer that science into practice. For example, at a World of Concrete luncheon yesterday, MIT visiting professor Rolan J.-M. Pellenq explained that CSH plans to create a green concrete that reduces carbon emissions in concrete, provides more strength with less material, lowers energy usage in processing, and has chemical stability. (Pellenq is also director of research of the French Government Research Agency CNRS.) They then want to see how this concrete can be used to improve the world's carbon footprint and help create jobs.

The research center will provide $10 million of sponsored research funding during the next five years. Two projects are already underway: "Green Concrete Science," and "The Edge of Concrete: A Life-Cycle Investigation of Concrete and Concrete Structures."

All research is currently organized around three focus areas: concrete materials science, building technology, and the econometrics of sustainable development.

The launch coincides with the EPA's new greenhouse gas (GHG) reporting rule, which took effect January and impacts power plants and large industrial manufacturers, including the 118 cement plants in the U.S. Future regulation to curtail GHG emissions will be based upon the emissions reporting results of this rule, but the CSH's projects could help ease the way as the industry struggles to meet those future regulations.

"This collaboration is an excellent example of how MIT is addressing complex, interconnected issues of sustainability and working to provide solutions," said Subra Suresh, Dean of Engineering and Vannevar Bush Professor of Engineering at MIT. "Putting engineers together with economists, urban planners, architects, and industry experts and practitioners on issues related to our built infrastructure will create truly novel opportunities for intervention."