Sustainable & Connected: City to require use of low-carbon concrete in new construction

April 25, 2024 9:42 AM

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (April 25, 2024) — The City Council took another key step toward carbon neutrality Tuesday, approving an ordinance to require the use of low-carbon concrete for all new construction, swimming pools and spas.

Traditional concrete is a mix that uses Portland cement, known as clinker, and other materials. The process of producing traditional concrete uses significant energy that creates large amounts of embodied carbon emissions.

Low-carbon concrete uses alternative materials that help reduce future carbon emissions.

Santa Monica is one of the first cities in the country to take action to reduce embodied emissions from concrete production and this ordinance is a key step towards carbon-neutral construction as recommended in the adopted Climate Action and Adaptation Plan.

"I’m thrilled to see our city continue to advance towards the goal of carbon neutrality," said Chief Sustainability Officer Shannon Parry. "We know the concrete industry is ready to supply low-carbon alternatives and we are ready to implement this very important step in our fight against climate change."

City staff conducted outreach to local concrete suppliers and builders in formulating the ordinance, and all expressed support and readiness to provide low-carbon concrete options. These options are readily available now and often at a lower cost than traditional cement.

The city of Santa Monica already uses low-carbon concrete mixes in city infrastructure projects, one example being the Moongate structure at Woodlawn Cemetery.

National examples of developments that have utilized low-carbon concrete materials include One World Trade Center in New York and Wilshire Grand Center in downtown Los Angeles.

The ordinance does include exemptions to allow for flexibility, such as for projects that require less than three yards of onsite mixing for immediate needs, during emergencies, in cases of supply chain challenges or if the cost of traditional concrete mix is higher than low-carbon options.

Compliance checks for the new ordinance will be part of the Plan Check process.

The ordinance will return for a second reading on May 14 and go into effect 30 days later.

For more information, see the staff report, or view the council discussion here.

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