flash flood

Environment Agency green lights low-carbon concrete for flood defences

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Low-carbon concrete will be used for flood defences as part of a plan to be greener, the Environment Agency (EA) has said.

The organisation said that more than half of its carbon emissions come from the construction of flood defences and has pledged to use more nature-based solutions going forward. EA claimed the move would help reduce emissions by 45 per cent as part of its aim to hit net zero by 2030.

As well as low-carbon concrete, the EA will adopt energy-efficient pumps to help move water away from homes during floods and switch to electric cars for its fleet by 2023.

Contractors and suppliers will be pushed to follow suit, with large contracts including commitments to reduce carbon footprint year-on-year.

Some EA staff will also receive support to work from home in order to reduce the emissions associated with daily commuting.

Sir James Bevan, chief executive of the EA, said: “Reaching net zero will be one of the biggest challenges the Environment Agency has ever faced. It will require every single one of us to play our part and to think and act differently. We will integrate net zero into every aspect of our work over the coming decade.

“By learning, sharing best practice and partnering with our suppliers, businesses and communities across the country, we will do everything we can to play our part in becoming a net zero nation and tackling the climate emergency that we all face.”

Emma Howard Boyd, chairwoman of the EA, said: “In the flurry of net zero announcements recently, many have questioned how some organisations are going to reach future targets. This road map sets out credible short-term and long-term action to bring down emissions in our operations and supply chain.”

The organisation also announced an offsetting strategy to address remaining emissions.

With around three tonnes of concrete used per person annually, worldwide, this widely used building material is taking an increasingly dramatic toll on the environment. Research into greener ways to use concrete have resulted in a number of new applications and mixes.

Scientists at Rice University recently demonstrated a process to convert waste from old rubber tyres into graphene which can, in turn, be used to strengthen concrete.

Researchers have also developed a greener form of concrete that swaps out sand for a common clay material that can easily be obtained as a waste from excavation works.

A new method of producing concrete entirely without cement has also been proposed by a research team from the University of Tokyo. The technique offers a means for the construction industry to reduce its carbon emissions, as well as offering potential for building on the Moon and Mars.

Meanwhile, traditional concrete still holds potential for building cheap yet sturdy structures, which can be 3D printed to almost any shape, addressing the urgent housing needs of many different people around the world. In Holland, for example, the inaugural tenant of the first Dutch 3D-printed concrete home received their house keys last month.

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