The Irish take great pride in their green fields and pastoral settings. They promise potential visitors to the Emerald Isle vistas from which to spy at least 40 hues of green.

I remembered this promise when I visited Ireland several years ago. While driving through the countryside, I tried to enjoy the scenery, but I got caught up in the numbers. I just couldn't count all those promised shades of green. I recall just counting up to about 25. Even so, I enjoyed the trip.

Maybe I'm just “green weak,” in that I have a mild form of deuteranopia, a colorblindness condition that affects about five out of 100 males of European descent. As a deuteranomalous person, I'm poor at discriminating small differences in the red, orange, yellow, and green region of the color spectrum. I'm told that many deuteranomalous people go through life with very little difficulty doing tasks that require normal color vision.

I'm becoming concerned that many architects and building owners may also be deuteranomalous in their view of concrete. I'm not really referring to how they measure the hue, but to how they view concrete as a tool for sustainable development.

Our industry seems to blur the image of green concrete. It's getting harder for our potential customers to measure greenness as it relates to concrete. For example, how can we answer the simple question, “What is green concrete?”

The answers are many and complex. Is green concrete another term for freshly placed material? Does it describe the appearance of a material batched with slag before it fully cures? Or does green describe a product or system proven to be good for our environment?

Green concrete's meaning

Our industry needs to agree on the meaning of green concrete. Should we define it as a product batched with a mix recipe that includes supplementary cements made from waste or recycled materials? Or is it better to only refer to hardened concrete's contribution to energy savings from its thermal mass? Is green concrete the right term to describe a product or material that regenerates groundwater either through pavers or pervious concrete? Or is it a combination of these and other factors.

This year, I think it's a safe bet to estimate that our industry will spend upwards of $10 million dollars marketing, promoting, researching, and demonstrating that concrete is green. With so much at stake, it's important we don't confuse our customers on the varying hues of green our concrete provides.

How can you be involved in this definition process? It's simple, as you have a chance to follow an important industry initiative happening later this month.

Claude Bedard, chairman of the American Concrete Institute's Strategic Development Council (SDC), is hosting a gathering of industry leaders to unify our approach to sustainability and the environmental movement. SDC's goal is to draft an industrywide strategic plan that aligns and coordinates each industry segment's message, strengths, weaknesses, and benefits.

SDC's Concrete & Sustainability Road-Mapping Workshop will take place Sept. 22–24 in San Diego. The workshop will base its efforts on the information developed at the Concrete Summit on Sustainable Development held earlier this year in Washington, D.C.

This meeting could become an industry milestone, perhaps more important that the successful RMC 2000 effort.

SDC's initiative deserves every key industry organization's involvement. We need to present a unified effort to convince our industry's most deuteranomalously-sighted opponents that concrete is indeed green.

For more information on the Strategic Development Council's workshop, visit www.concretesdc.org. You can telephone Doug Sordyl, managing director, at 248-848-3755 or e-mail douglas. sordyl@concretesdc.org.

Rick Yelton
Editor In Chief
ryelton@hanleywood.com