Concrete professionals broadened their understanding of sustainable products at a pervious concrete seminar and demonstration hosted by the Portland Cement Association in Skokie, Ill.
Photo courtesy of PCA Concrete professionals broadened their understanding of sustainable products at a pervious concrete seminar and demonstration hosted by the Portland Cement Association in Skokie, Ill.

If the industry's sustainability efforts were represented in color, the palette would range from sage to forest green. Most of us seem to be in the same spectrum, but as a group, we tend to get caught up in disagreements over our own favorite hues. The Strategic Development Council (SDC), part of the American Concrete Institute (ACI) Foundation, is hoping to change our way of thinking as it works toward publishing a Concrete Sustainability Vision Document.

In 2005, ACI and the Portland Cement Association (PCA) envisioned a concrete sustainability initiative that would provide education and insight into the green movement, assess its potential impact on and opportunities for the industry, identify a common vision regarding sustainability, and establish industry goals. The main message: The sustainability movement is of utmost importance to our society and the future, and can be a tremendous opportunity, rather than a threat, for the industry.

Since then, corporate and association representatives from all segments of the industry have been working toward these goals through their involvement with the SDC. Supporting associations include the American Society of Concrete Contractors, National Concrete Masonry Association, National Precast Concrete Association, Concrete Reinforcing Steel Institute, National Ready Mix Concrete Association, and Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute.

Recently, leaders from SDC and ACI met with Brian McCarthy, PCA's new president and CEO, to discuss this sustainability initiative. The group convened at the World of Concrete in Las Vegas, one the largest gathering spots for concrete and masonry professionals. "Concrete sustainability is a crucial issue in the industry," said Doug Sordyl, SDC managing director. "There is no doubt we will be able to move this initiative forward with much success."

McCarthy confirmed his association's commitment to the effort. "PCA applauds ACI's efforts to bring the technical sectors of the industry together to work on standards and measurements for sustainability. Complimenting these technical efforts, PCA maintains its focus on broader discussions with its concrete/cement partners, including educating end-users on the important role concrete plays in sustainable development and recognizing those who advance its role in green construction."

When the SDC completes its Vision Document later this year, it will be an official outline of broad goals and strategies to which all segments of the industry can align their sustainability activities. The document is meant to ensure that concrete is designed, specified, produced, installed, and applied in a way that enables an environmentally and socially responsible, healthy, and prosperous environment. A final draft is expected to be complete in April.

The process of developing a common industry vision has already had positive side effects. As more leaders have become interested in sustainability, the entire industry has become increasingly aware of the importance of action, versus just talk. The SDC's efforts also have generated positive feedback from the green commnity, including architects, contractors, and key individuals in sustainable organizations. By reaching out to these key people for participation and critique, concrete industry stakeholders have turned some skeptics of the environmental efforts into allies.

The SDC hopes to expand its sustainability initiative to include participants from Mexico and beyond, in addition to current U.S. and Canadian representatives.

For more information about the SDC's initiatives, visit