Veronika Elfmarkova, ECOPact Product Manager for Aggregate Industries’ London Concrete business was invited by Dr Xinyuan Ke, lecturer in Sustainable Materials for Construction in the Department for Architecture and Civil Engineering, to provide postgraduate students, research and academic staff at the university with a view from industry.
The seminar provided an introduction to the sector, the cement production process, what net zero means for construction, and the opportunities for carbon reduction. Also discussed were some of the practical considerations of a low carbon transition, and how academia can help the sector in overcoming some of the challenges.
Veronika Elfmarkova commented: “Talking to the postgraduate students, who are at the very start of their journey into the construction industry, was a real honour. As an employer, we have a responsibility to support grassroots talent coming into the sector, so opportunities like this to start a conversation are vital. As a sector, if we are to deliver on our collective ambitions for a more sustainable future, upskilling is crucial and for that, there must be greater collaboration between academia and industry.
“There is no single solution available to achieve carbon neutrality in construction, but research suggests that a combination of several initiatives can be implemented to reduce CO2 emissions across the industry value chain, including energy efficient processes, a move to alternative fuels, reducing the clinker factor with alternative materials, such as fly ash or GGBS, and novel cement and innovative carbon capture technologies.
“Aggregate Industries became the first construction materials supplier to be certified to PAS 2080, the world’s first specification for managing whole-life carbon infrastructure. We have sector-leading logistics – by ship, rail or barge – and we can move our products to market unlike any other in our industry, whilst reducing truck movements on the roads and carbon output.
“Furthermore, we continue to develop low carbon solutions, and we have been reducing carbon in our concrete for years. We have converted to lower carbon blended cements, which save over 30% carbon when compared to the more traditional CEMI mixes. This change towards lower carbon mixes is saving over 1.2 million kg of carbon per year. This is equivalent to over 4.8 million miles driven in a diesel car.”
Dr Xinyuan Ke, Lecturer at University of Bath, commented: “Sustainability improvement, technology and strategy development that can help support decarbonisation of the construction industry have always been the core research ambitions of my research group, as well as the strategic priorities of our department. Close engagement and communication with the leading industrial experts and companies in the construction sector will pose sustained impacts and benefits to the learning, researching and career progression of our students and research staffs.”
The Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering at the University of Bath is a centre of excellence, with its courses and research being internationally recognised. With experts in climate change, innovative and holistic design, and historical interpretation, it promotes collaborative research between the fields of both architecture and civil engineering, with specialist research centres that explore innovative construction materials, architectural theory and practice, sustainable design and geotechnical and water engineering.
Veronika Elfmarkova has a master’s degree in Civil Engineering, Building Materials and Technologies and is a member of the Institute of Concrete Technology. She began her career in academia before moving into industry, focusing on sustainable construction materials for Aggregate Industries. Veronika recently joined the Transforming Foundation Industries Network Future Leaders Group and is passionate about bridging the gap between academia and industry and encouraging more diverse talent into the sector.