Big Tech Climate Commitments Drive Demand for Sustainable Concrete

The technology sector presents a massive growth opportunity for concrete producers. As the world continues to embrace digital in all areas of life, tech companies are building data centers, fulfillment centers, and technology campuses to keep up with their seemingly endless growth trajectory.

Concrete is the perfect material for the construction of these types of projects—it doesn’t rust or rot and it’s resistant to fire, wind, water, and earthquakes. There’s another reason tech companies favor concrete as a building material: its low-carbon innovation potential. 

Tech companies are leading the way in sustainability commitments to meet their ambitious carbon reduction goals. As a result, carbon neutrality and carbon negativity are becoming standard business practices in everything from procurement and supply chain to construction.

In a recent webinar, CarbonCure’s Director of Sustainability, Christie Gamble, spoke with LinkedIn’s Senior Manager of Design Build Workplace, Jenny Mitchell, and Compass Datacenters’ Chief Innovation Officer, Nancy Novak, to discuss their recent construction projects and experiences with low-carbon concrete.

Building LinkedIn Middlefield Campus with Low-Carbon Concrete

LinkedIn’s Senior Manager of Design Build Workplace, Jenny Mitchell, grew up with concrete—her family owned a concrete plant when she was younger—and she spent a lot of her career working at a local concrete manufacturer, designing concrete mixes for sustainability. Today she oversees LinkedIn’s HQ construction projects.

LinkedIn began its low-carbon concrete journey at its LinkedIn Middlefield Campus (LMC) in Mountain View, California. Through clever design, performance-based specifications, and great partnerships with architects, engineers, general contractors, and concrete producers, the project saved 4.8 million pounds of CO2 through innovation in concrete mix design—240,000 pounds of which were saved with CarbonCure.

LinkedIn's Jenny Mitchell visits the construction of LinkedIn's Middlefield Campus, built with low-carbon concrete courtesy of Central Concrete Supply Co. (Photo: American Builders Quarterly)

Why LinkedIn Focuses on Low-Carbon Concrete

Microsoft, LinkedIn’s parent company, recently announced aggressive climate change initiatives and LinkedIn adopted similar sustainability commitments. Of those commitments, Jenny’s team is most interested in carbon negative technologies, specifically related to the reduction of embodied carbon.

Within its Carbon Negative commitment, LinkedIn aims to:

  1. Reduce Scope 3 emissions by 55% by 2030 (e.g. carbon emissions from procurement, business travel, employee commutes)
  2. Support efforts by suppliers and customers to improve their carbon impact
  3. Offset all historical emissions by 2050
  4. Invest in carbon removal and sequestration innovation (this is where concrete comes in!)

“With our LMC project, we wanted to do the right thing from a corporate and social responsibility perspective. We then wanted to tell our story to encourage others to do it as well,” said Jenny.

Excerpt from Jenny Mitchell's presentation during the recent webinar, the Big Tech Construction Opportunity for Concrete Producers.

Concrete Opportunity in Data Centers

Data centers are a fairly new phenomenon and only began to boom around the turn of the century. Today, however, the total amount of data created, captured, copied, and consumed in the world almost doubles every two years. That means more and more data centers are required to meet demand.

Compass Datacenters builds the construction and technology infrastructure to serve its market of data-hungry tech clients—clients that have very ambitious sustainability goals.

Concrete is the perfect construction material to house Compass’ expensive machines. Another key advantage of concrete for Compass is speed to market. “We love the fact that we can be dried in a month on six megawatts worth of space,” said Nancy. “The exciting part for us now is making concrete a more environmentally-friendly product to go along with all of its other benefits.” 

Compass partnered with CarbonCure and committed to performance-based specs for ready mix and precast suppliers. All their suppliers today must be able to meet their requirements for low-carbon concrete.

“Like the datacenter industry, the construction industry has to get on board with tech’s sustainability agenda, said Nancy. “If we don't figure it out, they will figure it out for us because nothing will stop them.”

Compass anticipates saving an average of 1,800 tonnes of CO2 per campus, which is equal to 2,100 acres of forest or driving 4 million miles. 

Building with CarbonCure concrete saves Compass Datacenters an estimated 1,800 tonnes of CO2 per campus.

The Power of Partnerships 

The LinkedIn project was the first time the company had embarked on such a large-scale building project with such an ambitious emissions goal. Partnerships were crucial to the project’s success.

“We partnered very early in the project with our concrete manufacturer, general contractor, engineers, and architects,” said Jenny. “We brought everyone to the table to explain our goals and come up with solutions to help us meet them. The partnerships were what helped us achieve something so cutting-edge.”

Moving forward, LinkedIn intends to continue to take a partnership approach to innovation. They want a seat at the design table so they can say, “I'm okay with an extra four or five days on the schedule if we don't have to use that high cement mix.” 

By being involved in the conversation, they can help set the priorities for the project rather than the project team following old standard specifications.

“A lot of what we perceive as problems are solvable as a team when we start talking about it,” said Jenny.

Construction, including the use of sustainable concrete, underway at the LinkedIn Middlefield Campus underway in Mountain View, California. (Photo: CNN)

Supporting Concrete Producers in Innovation

Big tech is actively seeking solutions across its supply chain and is supporting suppliers that are adopting these solutions. Concrete suppliers don’t have to be the test labs for new solutions; the project owners are often happy to invest in the mix designs.

“I think owners have a huge responsibility here,” said Jenny, “They also have a great opportunity to help drive the change that the industry needs.”

Compass Datacenters also invests in testing. “We incentivize our contracting community to become more sustainable and more inclusive on our project site. Even after you start to partner with us, there are incentives built into our terms that say if you can hit certain goals or beat industry standards in ways that matter to us, you will be rewarded for that,” said Nancy.

“We want to stop talking about the problem of cement. The industry is really doing a great job developing solutions to address that. Once people fully understand it, we can stop talking about concrete as the problem and start talking about concrete as the solution,” said Jenny.

With Big Tech’s increased focus on carbon neutrality and carbon negativity, low-carbon concrete offers an excellent opportunity for producers to gain a competitive advantage to produce concrete for these large projects. And tech is usually the vanguard for broader corporate and government climate practices—expect other industries to follow their lead and government policy to evolve in tandem!

Watch the full webinar on demand.

If you’d like to chat about how you can win new business from the technology industry with CarbonCure, please get in touch with a CarbonCure representative.

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