Michael McSweeney Remarks 2013 ROMA/OGRA Combined Conference, February 25, 2013
Check Against Delivery
My name is Michael McSweeney. I am the President and CEO of the Cement Association of Canada. On behalf of the Association, our co-sponsors the Ready Mixed Concrete Association of Ontario, and the entire concrete industry, thank you for joining us this afternoon.
It is also a great pleasure to welcome the chair of today’s session, Joanne Vanderheyden, Mayor of the Municipality of Strathroy-Caradoc and OGRA’s 1st Vice President.
The topic of our session is “Calculating the Complete Life Cycle Costs of Infrastructure.” Of course, today our focus will be on roads. But much of what we present holds true for all other forms of infrastructure, above or below ground, from concrete pipes, intersections to concrete buildings.
We’re very pleased to have Dr. Jeremy Gregory here today from MIT to share his research on Life Cycle Analysis and Life Cycle Cost Assessment and its implications for transportation infrastructure. I will introduce Jeremy in a moment. But before I do, I would like to take a few minutes to briefly describe the concrete industry in Canada and our commitment to sustainability. I will also spend a few minutes introducing the importance of LCA and LCCA to sustainable, cost effective infrastructure.
While cement is manufactured and shipped globally, concrete is a perishable product and it is also very much a local product, typically traveling less than 150 km to a project site. If you believe in the "100 mile diet", getting your food close to home as it is a more sustainable practice than say getting asparagus from Peru in February, we like to think of concrete as an important part of a “100 mile infrastructure diet” that supports vibrant local and sustainable economies and reduces GHGs by transporting the raw materials from less distances than other competing building or paving materials.
Sustainability is at the heart of the concrete industry, and for us this has a few different, but related meanings. First of all, we take our commitment to continuously improving the operational performance of our industry very seriously. Whether it’s improved energy efficiency, lower GHG emissions, biodiversity at our quarry sites or investing in vibrant civil sector engagement, we recognize that corporate responsibility and sustainability are the very foundation of our social license to operate today and even more so in the into the future. Collectively, our industry invests tens of millions of dollars each year to innovate more efficient and sustainable business practices.
But we also know that sustainability is a challenge that is much bigger than any one industry. For the concrete industry, sustainability is a collective challenge that requires collective solutions. Which is why we place so much value on partnerships with government, industry professionals, academics, environmental groups and especially the communities in which we operate.
Our partnership with MIT, through the Concrete Sustainability Hub, is just one example of our commitment to being part of the solution. We’ve also partnered with environmental groups like WWF, Environmental Defence, Pollution Probe, Lake Ontario Water Keepers, and Earth Rangers, among others, to help advocate and educate on concrete's ability to be part of a sustainable city and culture and its key role in mitigating and adapting to climate change, preserving biodiversity and protecting water.
If there is one thing that we have learned through these partnerships and our work with governments, it is the notion that when it comes to sustainability, you have to be rigorous and you have to look deeply at the challenges to understand how best to address them. This is where life cycle assessment becomes important.
So what is Life Cycle Assessment ? or LCA as it is often referred to? LCA is an analytical tool that helps us examine and account for the economic, environmental and, to some extent, the social impact of each and every step in the life of a material (like concrete) or project (like a highway). Some refer to it as a cradle-to-grave, or cradle-to- cradle analysis that looks at everything from the mining, processing and transportation of raw materials, to the use phase of the infrastructure, to its decommissioning and end- of-life, where raw materials may be reused, recycled or disposed of.
For example, to evaluate the CO2 impacts of a concrete roadway, a LCA would examine activities such as:
- The extraction of aggregates at a quarry
- The processing of raw materials at a cement plant
- The transportation of these materials to the batch plant
- The construction activities
- The maintenance and upkeep of the concrete pavement
- Reusing, recycling or disposing of the pavement at the end of its life
It would also include the CO2 impact from the use or operation-phase of the pavement, including factors such as rolling resistance (which relates to vehicle fuel consumption) and albedo effect, (which relates to urban heat island effect, lighting and global cooling).
Dr. Gregory will take us through the details of what this looks like in just a second. But as a quick demonstration of the power of LCA, I’d like you to take a quick quiz.
What do you think is the biggest environmental impact of your cup of morning coffee? Is it tropical deforestation? Pesticide use? Transportation across the globe to European and North American markets? In fact, the single largest environmental impact of your morning cup of coffee is the energy required to brew it - this accounts for 42% of the total environmental footprint of your morning pick me up!
Sticking with the coffee theme, we all feel a bit guilty when we enjoy our coffee in a disposable cup. There are of course many reasons to discourage the use of disposable cups, but they may not be the reasons we think they are. In fact, you would have to use a re-usable ceramic cup a stunning 1800 times before you saw an environmental benefit over a Styrofoam cup in terms of air emissions; 640 times in terms of energy use. Remember we have to wash that cup and a single wash of a reusable cup uses more water than the entire lifecycle of a disposable Styrofoam cup.
The same holds true for roads. Notwithstanding all the energy and resources that go into building a road, whether from concrete or that other product that gets used, the vast majority of environmental impacts in terms of energy and GHGs occur during the use phase of the road. Similarly, a full service-life view of roads demonstrates that maintenance is a significant component of their full cost. Our motto is build it once, build it right and build it to last.
In fact, here in Ontario over the last decade, 10 of the last 10 MTO alternative bid tenders have been awarded to concrete. LCCA shows that this decision will save the MTO over $45 million. LCCA studies show that by choosing concrete, Ontario municipalities could save up to 26% on a pavement’s total cost of ownership when considering its full life cycle.
While LCA is a powerful tool, it's also an emerging science. That is why the concrete industry has partnered with MIT, among other third-party academic institutions, in order to ensure that our investment in this tool is neutral, aligned with emerging international standards and therefore credible and reliable.
Let me now introduce Dr. Jeremy Gregory. Dr. Gregory is a research scientist in the Materials Systems Laboratory and the Engineering Systems Division at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He studies the economic and environmental implications of engineering and system design decisions, particularly in the area of materials production and recovery systems. Research topics include electronics recycling, characterization of sustainable material systems, and product and firm environmental footprinting. He received his PhD and MS from MIT and BS from Montana State University-Bozeman, all in mechanical engineering.
Dr. Gregory, over to you!