I'm glad my daughter is back at her university. While I love her deeply, we just can't seem to agree on how to be environmentally responsible.

I believe it's important to turn off all lights in non-occupied rooms. I think it's responsible to only have one computer, television, or telephone operating at a time. I also believe bottled water should be used as a last resort.

But we really disagree on the topic of home improvement. She's been echoing her mother's complaint that we should redecorate our house. I think it looks just fine.

While I've lost a couple of recent redo battles, I had been holding the environmental trump card when it comes to painting. I don't want to add to the problem by generating more household hazardous waste. According to the Product Stewardship Institute, a Boston group that serves as an environmental outreach effort for municipalities, wasted latex paint represents 25-30% by mass of all household hazardous wastes. While ours would have been a meager amount, I had deemed any extra waste generated by our painting as bad for the environment.

This was true until I learned that my own industry is working hard to take away the last reason for my painting moratorium. Abdaulrahman Mohammed and Alham Adawi, supported by their faculty advisor professor Moncef Nehd at the University of Western Ontario, recently published an impressive paper in the July/August edition of the ACI Materials Journal that potentially ruins my stand. In “Recycling Waste Latex Paint in Concrete with Added Value,” these enterprising civil engineers demonstrate how yet again, the concrete industry has the ability to transform another waste material into a quality product.

They conclude their report by writing, “Based on the results obtained from this study, it appears that concrete with 15% waste latex paint replacement for mixing water could be used in non-structural concrete elements such as sidewalks, highway median barriers, and concrete blocks.” They also believe that when follow-up research supports their findings, most, if not all, of the waste latex paint generated in the U.S. can avoid the landfill by being used in municipal concrete sidewalks.

The University of Western Ontario's effort is just one of a host of industry developments that will position concrete as the preferred sustainable building material. This is why we began the GreenSite Awards on p. 22.

Ours is the only recognition program that honors producers, contractors, and material suppliers for their efforts in creating sustainable concrete structures. Our honorees were willing to ake on the task of building a green dream, under tight budgets and time constraints. Their efforts should serve as examples to our industry that building green with concrete should not cost our clients, or even society, more than traditional methods in the short term. If this is correct, then the long-term benefits will be even greater.

Congratulations to our honorees, and just as importantly, to those researchers who paved the way in accepting these innovative green construction techniques.