Subsidies from Energy Dept stimulate the construction of buildings that remove CO2 from the air

Subsidies from Energy Dept stimulate the construction of buildings that remove CO2 from the air

Subsidies from Energy Dept stimulate the construction of buildings that remove CO2 from the air

The idea that buildings should be built with a view to slowing down climate change by making them carbon neutral is being superseded by the development of even more ambitious technologies that aim to remove CO2 from the atmosphere, making them CO2 negative. . CO2 is the main component of greenhouse gases, which cause global warming.

The Department of Energy is encouraging work in this area, announcing this week that it is funding 18 projects that will rely on newly developed technologies that can convert buildings into carbon storage structures.

Ten universities and eight national labs and private companies have been awarded $39 million to develop clean energy building materials that remove carbon from the atmosphere and demonstrate carbon-negative designs for entire buildings.

The teams, led by DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) and selected under the agency’s Harnessing Emissions into Structures Taking Inputs from the Atmosphere (HESTIA) program, will prioritize overcoming the key obstacles to carbon storage buildings: scarcity, cost and geographically limited building materials.

The 10 universities that received the grants are using different approaches to take CO2 out of the air: Texas A&M University and the University of Pennsylvania will use 3D printing to their advantage, creating net carbon-negative building designs using hemp, a lightweight material mixed with the core of the hemp plant and the lime and carbon absorbing cableway floor systems respectively. Other universities — Clemson University and University of Wisconsin-Madison, among others — are planning to create carbon-negative replacements for wood, cement and insulation.

With projects like these, the program hopes to meet its decarbonization goals by increasing the total amount of carbon stored in buildings, creating “carbon sinks” — sites that take in more carbon than they produce.

While it’s unclear how much carbon the new building materials will absorb, their plant mixtures are designed to use direct air capture, extracting CO2 from the air and storing it in their layers. At the University of Colorado Boulder, for example, the evolving technology plans to produce biogenic limestone, which will use coccolithophores — or calcareous microalgae — to imbibe and retain CO2 in mineral form through photosynthesis and calcification.

As it stands, many buildings around the world are the opposite of carbon sinks. They are “carbon sources,” meaning they release carbon into the atmosphere, effectively making the building and construction industry one of the notable producers of greenhouse gases.

Globally, the share of energy-related CO2 emissions from this sector compared to other sectors was 37% in 2020, according to the Global Status Report for Buildings and Construction 2021, published by the UN Environment Programme. In the United States, greenhouse gas emissions produced by the industry from building and construction, renovation and disposal account for 10% of total annual emissions.

“There is huge untapped potential in reimagining building materials and construction techniques like carbon sinks that support a cleaner atmosphere and advance President Biden’s national climate goals,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “This is a unique opportunity for researchers to advance clean energy materials to tackle one of the most difficult-to-decarbonize sectors, accounting for approximately 10% of total annual emissions in the United States.”

The Energy Department says the greenhouse gas emissions produced by the materials currently used are “concentrated at the beginning of a building’s life.” This increases the urgency of tackling national environmental challenges, as the latest report from the United Nations World Meteorological Organization shows that the concentration of three greenhouse gases in particular – carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane in the air – increased even more in 2021 after reaching new highs in 2020.

The ARPA-E announcement is the agency’s latest move to reflect President Biden’s plan to reach zero emissions by 2050.

Earlier this year, ARPA-E also awarded $5 million to fund the work of two universities – the University of Washington and University of California, Davis – to design assessment tools and frameworks for transforming buildings into carbon storage structures.

HESTIA was founded in 2021 to develop building materials and designs that specifically remove carbon during the construction production process and store it in the chemical structure of the final product.