It's one thing to talk about sustainability and green building; it's something else to actually do something about it. And that's where Holcim is stepping up. The company's Envirocore Web site,, provides a wealth of information on concrete as a sustainable material.

The site was launched last fall, along with the Envirocore product line, and the reference material on it has continued to grow. One of the things I like best is its Green versus Traditional Building comparison. The comparison shows the cost of energy for heating and cooling over a 60-year period. But as you move the slider from left to right, it also shows the difference in periodic maintenance and replacement needs between the two, specifically in roofing, siding, and driveways.

The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) section includes an overview and explanations of the various LEED rating systems. For example, you might be surprised to learn that there are now LEED systems for new construction, existing buildings, commercial interiors, core and shell, homes, and neighborhood development. While some is still under development, the information provided gives insights into what to expect.

For example, the section reports that unlike most LEED systems that focus primarily on green building practices, “LEED for Neighborhood Development will emphasize smart growth aspects and neighborhood design of development.” The hyperlinks allow you to download the preliminary draft documents on this and other programs under development.

Another interesting feature is the LEED calculator. This tool first has you choose one of the six programs, then walks you through the categories applicable to that program. Selecting Commercial Interiors yields six categories to explore. Looking at Materials & Resources, with a potential of 14 points, we see that one item, Storage and Collection of Recyclables, is required. One click brings up a commentary that includes an explanation of its intent, the specific requirements, required submittals, and tips on potential technologies and strategies for earning each credit.

If you meet the criteria, you can click that you expect to qualify for that point. Checking the summary shows you how many points you've checked off and where you stand against the rating system.

Concrete credits

A link at the bottom of the form offers suggestions on how concrete as a building material can contribute to earning each of the credits in any given section. Where applicable, it also lists how using specific Envirocore products might be considered as support for individual credits.

For example, look under New Construction, where Materials & Resources offers 13 possible credits. By going to the list of recommendations, we see four areas where suggestions are provided, including two, Recycled Content and Regional Materials, where using any Envirocore product can help earn four credits.

The site also includes several reference sections. The Heat Island section explains the phenomenon, with good graphical illustrations. It provides links to more in-depth information, such as research from the National Center of Excellence on SMART Innovations at Arizona State University.

The Product Specifications tab brings up a PDF file on the Envirocore line of products. These sample products support several of Holcim's eco-efficiency goals.

Finally, the Links section directs you to many recognized authorities in the cement and concrete arena, such as the Portland Cement Association's Concrete Thinker, The Green Building Alliance, and others.