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President Bill Clinton, Greenbuild's keynote speaker, highlighted the Clinton Climate Initiative's partnerships and their efforts to “show the world that the solution to the climate crisis isn't far off in the future.”
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The Dan Ryan Expressway Reconstruction Project in Chicago cost $975 million to complete recently. Green technology may help boost highway spending, even as consumers cut back on fuel by buying more energy-efficient vehicles, using public transportation, and using alternative fuels.

By now, anyone remotely involved with construction has probably heard some version of “You can make green by building green.”

Sure, it's a cliché, but it rings true, especially in a market where being environmentally friendly can set one concrete producer apart from the competition. With many prominent organizations working to increase our nation's spending on sustainable building projects, producers have more incentive to “go green” than ever before.

At a time when residential and even some commercial construction has slowed, many are relying on reliably steady public works and infrastructure jobs. Although environmental groups advocate spending on public transportation rather than highways, the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) is campaigning for more money for federal and state transportation projects.

ARTBA's “PRIDE in Transportation Construction” campaign includes grassroots lobbying, fighting anti-transportation lawsuits, and government advocacy—all in the name of promoting transportation construction. Its report, “Transportation and the Environment: Perspectives in Progress,” highlights “transportation's environmental success story.”

The report stresses the need to improve U.S. roads and expand capacity to ease congestion, which reduces unnecessary emissions from cars and trucks sitting in traffic.

It also stresses the opportunity highway construction poses for recycling, by reusing concrete, asphalt, and cementitious byproducts such as slag and flyash. “The U.S. transportation construction industry has long been a leader in materials recycling, saving taxpayers money on publicly-funded highway projects and simultaneously reducing demands on landfills, quarries, gravel pits and petroleum use,” the report states.

Highways are also an ideal testing ground for identifying ways to fight global warming. The EPA is studying the benefits of concrete, a more reflective material than asphalt, to help reduce urban heat island effects. Concrete with light colored aggregates, or pervious applications, is already being used to create “cool pavements” across the country.

ARTBA hopes these green selling points will help build “public and congressional support for another significant increase in federal transportation investment in 2009.” Until the SAFETEA-LU bill expires Sept. 30, 2009, the Congressional Budget Office has projected that the Highway Account of the federal Highway Trust Fund will fall $4.3 billion short of the $244.1 billion in funding the bill originally guaranteed.

Clinton's case

Meanwhile, the green building movement is also going strong in other sectors. This fall's Greenbuild Conference & Expo, showcasing green products and services, had the highest attendance in the show's history. (See news story on page 14.)

The Portland Cement Association (PCA) and National Ready Mixed Concrete Association (NRMCA) attracted attention by publicizing the greener points of concrete. PCA announced results of new research, which allows concrete projects to accrue Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) points for reflectivity without additional testing. NRMCA discussed pervious concrete, energy savings, and other benefits with national decision makers at the show.