There’s a NEU Path to Carbon Neutral Concrete

In a significant step to help meet carbon reduction goals, the American Concrete Institute (ACI) has established a uniquely positioned center, NEU: An ACI Center of Excellence for Carbon Neutral Concrete.
By Drew Burns | October 27, 2022

The concrete industry is working to reduce its carbon footprint, but despite the amount of work already accomplished, there is still much to do. In a significant step to help meet carbon reduction goals, the American Concrete Institute (ACI) has established a uniquely positioned center, NEU: An ACI Center of Excellence for Carbon Neutral Concrete. This Center is significant as it will drive research, education, awareness, and global adoption of the use of carbon neutral materials and technologies in the built environment. NEU’s vision is a concrete industry where all stakeholders have access to technologies and the knowledge needed to effectively and safely produce and place carbon neutral concrete and concrete products.

The establishment of this Center is noteworthy because with the wealth of information available, it is not easy for companies to decipher the best technologies and materials to use. It is increasingly important that as new materials and technologies come forward, they are evaluated for their efficacy. NEU will create a process to validate the claims of innovative and new materials and technologies associated with low carbon concrete production and placement.

With the concrete industry inherently risk-adverse in regard to new ideas, NEU’s pathway to validation will assist those in the concrete industry to evaluate and choose the appropriate method for their application.

Peer Reviewed Technology Validation
So, how do we begin to evaluate new materials and technology? The best way is through an independent, peer review evaluation based on upon set thresholds specific to that product. NEU is developing a process for companies to submit proposals for validation consideration. This begins with a procedure that is directed by a validation committee with oversight to the process. NEU has outlined the basic phases of validation. These include:
• Initial application and review
• Subject matter expert (SME) panel formation
• Review of product, claims and supporting data
• Report generation and validation committee review/approval

An advantage of this process is that it is an individualized approach, with the end goal of validating specific claims put forth by the applicant. NEU is not producing broad reviews of a material or technology, but rather each specific product is reviewed based on its own individual merits. The result is that users will know the specifics of what to expect in concrete performance and carbon reduction from using that product.

NEU anticipates accepting proposals beginning in Spring 2023. However, validation is only one of the core functions of NEU and other functions are just as essential to pursue a carbon-neutral goal.

Additional Core Functions of NEU
NEU has several other areas it will pursue to ensure that information and education about low carbon options is spread throughout the industry.

Technology Transfer. This is the education and dissemination of best practices associated with carbon neutral concrete and is central to NEU’s success. It is important that the industry understands the issues associated with carbon neutrality and the advancements that are being made along the way. It is through educating the industry on the most recent information acquired through vetting and testing that those throughout the industry have the opportunity to make choices that are best for their concrete application. NEU comes with the built-in advantage of being founded by the American Concrete Institute (ACI) and can capitalize on ACI’s established network of professionals within industry, as well as higher education institutions worldwide.

Some of the resources NEU will be setting up to provide the industry with vital information include short courses (virtual and in-person), webinars, training programs (ACI Resource Centers), industry presentations, technical information sheets, Carbon Neutral Concrete Summits, and future professional certification programs.
NEU has already begun making inroads in education:
• A new Sustainable Concrete Guide in the works and will be released in late 2022.
• The first two webinars have been released and are on the NEU website.
o How ACI is Working to Address Carbon Neutrality in Concrete  
o An Overview of Sustainable Concrete Design
• Another valuable educational resource on NEU’s website includes FAQs about carbon neutral concrete, which are updated regularly.

A special upcoming event is NEU’s first Carbon Neutral Specialty Day at the ACI Spring Convention in April 2023. This event will include presentations and case studies by industry leaders.
Other core values of NEU include:

Advocacy and Technical Support. NEU will be able to use ACI’s network to help with advocating for the use of sound technical information and the application of existing knowledge.

NEU looks to assist in advancing local jurisdiction adoption while keeping an eye on local procurement and building code issues. Additionally, NEU will be a resource for ACI committees in developing language for guides, specifications, and codes associated with carbon neutral concrete materials and technologies.

ACI Committee Assistance. The technical, educational, and certification committees of ACI are recognized worldwide as a resource for unbiased consensus information on topics related to concrete. NEU will be recognized as an entity that supports the resources developed by these committees including dissemination. Additionally, NEU will respond to research needs identified by ACI committee experts and provide investor feedback on new documents, codes, and specifications that are required.

Technology Acceleration. NEU is envisioned as the gateway for new technologies to enter the industry and can direct necessary resources to accelerate the adoption of those technologies. Currently, no such entity serves the concrete construction industry in this way, and the lack of such an entity is a major hurdle to innovation.

Research. Even though much research and development has been conducted on technologies that support a reduced carbon footprint for the cement and concrete industry, more needs to be done to ensure the effective and efficient deployment of these decarbonization technologies are focused.

In the current fragmented world of cement and concrete research, significant resources are being channeled into ideas and technologies that simply will never be implemented. High-risk, high-reward research has its place, but this Center will keep its focus on technologies that experts can support as being realistic, applicable, cost effective, and technologically effective. It has been said that bringing the cement and concrete industry to carbon neutrality by 2050 is akin to the U.S. mission to travel to the moon in the last century. It will take a well-focused, informed, technologically advanced organization to develop the necessary technologies. NEU will assume the responsibility to work directly with other major entities worldwide to achieve the desired outcomes.

International and Student Outreach. NEU will work with international ACI Chapters to meet global needs. Additionally, empowering and motivating the next generation of engineers and technologists to be actively involved and support the decarbonization efforts is imperative. To this end, NEU will engage with ACI’s contingent of student members and student chapters.

Path Forward
Organizations across the value chain are financially and philosophically supporting and collaborating on executing the Center’s objectives. Many companies that have committed to help with NEU’s mission at various levels of involvement, including Sustaining Members, Supporting Members, Affiliate Members and Allied Members. All are united in the goal of finding the best methods to reduce carbon emissions in concrete.

Interest and involvement are being seen from project owners, specifying agencies, architects / engineers, developers, contractors, material / product suppliers, trade associations, related NGOs, educational Institutes, and federal and state agencies.
NEU is new and beginning its journey in assisting the concrete industry in this monumental transformation toward a greener future. Through thoroughly vetting new materials and technologies and educating the industry, the road to reduced carbon neutrality can become a reality.

For more information on NEU and how to get involved, go to, or email [email protected].

Author: Drew Burns
Executive Director
NEU: An ACI Center of Excellence for Carbon Neutral Concrete
[email protected]

Printed in Issue 2, 2022 of Carbon Capture Magazine