What would the ideal concrete plant (precast, ready mix, brick, etc.) be? What issues, environmental or otherwise, would they have to overcome?
ㆍLocation, location, location. The plant is located near the customer base it serves, minimizing the transport of the finished product to their customers, as well as the associated fuel use, traffic, and exhaust emissions. It's also located near public transportation, which many of the plant employees use.
ㆍMaterials & supply chain. The plant is close to their raw material sources. Cement kilns produce cement not too far away and sand and stone are produced nearby. Having several sources available, they've started using supply chain management to find like-minded suppliers for their materials.
ㆍCarbon footprint reduction. The plant makes use of supplemental cementicious materials (SCMs) as much as possible in place of ordinary portland cement, thereby both reducing the greenhouse gas emissions and carbon footprint associated with cement, and also helping reduce the amount of waste the plant's area has to deal with. These materials include fly ash and slag, both of which also help to produce a superior product.
ㆍRecycle water whenever possible. The generation of process water is kept to as little as possible - and all process water generated is recycled for further concrete production. There is no discharge of any process water from this plant at all.
ㆍStormwater harvesting. In order to reduce potable water use at the plant, stormwater capturing is used to collect this free source of clean water, which is then used for concrete production, truck washing, dust control, and green space watering. Some stormwater does runoff from the plant site, but a great stormwater plan ensures that the stormwater leaving the site has little impact on adjacent waterways.
ㆍKeeping returned materials to a minimum. Due to careful sales and ordering practices, little returned concrete is generated. A strong QC program also ensures that few loads are rejected. What returned concrete there is goes to a concrete reclaimer which extracts the sand and stone in the concrete, and allows the process water and cement past to be recycled as part of new concrete production. There are no solid wastes generated at all.
ㆍGreen areas & open spaces. Plant siting and construction was done with the environment in mind. Green areas remain, providing some wildlife habitat, a buffer of thick screening vegetation was preserved along property lines reducing noise and visual impact, and as much pervious concrete on the plant site as possible was used.
ㆍKnowledgeable staff members. The plant's company regularly incorporates environmental training, and involves all employees in the plant's environmental program. All participate. The plant also regularly perform environmental audits to determine their compliance level.
ㆍAn environmental management system. In order to manage their environmental program, concrete plant uses an environmental management system, and as result plant has received the NRMCA Green-Star and/or ISO 14001 EMS certifications.
ㆍWater from concrete trucks minimized. The plant uses jobsite rinseoff techniques for all loads delivered, and doesn't waste time or resources rinsing at the site. These include chute washoff buckets on most of the trucks.
ㆍProfitability. And best of all, customers of plant enjoy this difference, as do employees, neighbors, and corporate stockholders. They realize that plant is a partner in their environmental vision, and they are willing to pay a premium for this difference. The plant also does a great job at telling people about their environmental achievements and vision. And, that's right, they get more for their concrete over the competition, and have a healthier bottom line. They make more money than people who ignore this stuff.
I've yet to see this plant. I've been to a few that are trying their hardest to get there, but it's somewhat of a pipedream. I have been fortunate enough to see plants which incorporate many of these traits, although maybe not all of them, and they're usually more profitable, operate better, and generally seen as a well-respected, productive part of the local community. How about your plant? How many of these traits do you employ? All of them? Some of them? None of them?
If you aren't the ideal concrete plant, don't worry - you're not alone. But you need to know that the industry is heading in this direction. Maybe not towards perfection, but towards continuous improvement. Getting better all the time. Reducing environmental impacts. Becoming more sustainable.
Are you ready to embrace change, and set yourself up as a market or industry leader? Click here to contact us.