Making Room at the Design Table for Materials Suppliers

Regardless of the type of construction project — whether it is a residential project like a housing complex or apartment block, or a commercial project like a multiplex arena or major airport expansion — a similar design and construction cycle will unfold.

In simple terms, construction projects arise from the vision of an owner or developer. They then move through complex design and approval stages with engineers and architects. Once design and pre-construction stages are complete, a general contractor is brought into the fold to provide labor and material cost estimations and project scheduling. Only at this final point in the design and construction process do materials suppliers play a role. Even then, the only role for these suppliers has traditionally been to deliver the requested product at a competitive price. 

Is it time for us to question this linear approach? Concrete producers (and other materials providers) have long struggled to have a seat at the design table, and many have realized that it shouldn't just be a one-way communication chain. These producers are engaging with architects, engineers before the RFP process even begins so that they can help choose the right materials for the job. By doing so, they also position themselves as a trusted partner and differentiate themselves from the competition.

Source:  Architecture 2030
Source: Architecture 2030

Sustainability: A Sea Change in the Perception of Construction Materials

Most owners and their design teams think of construction materials like concrete as pure commodities. As such, concrete is not typically a major item on an architect or engineer’s agenda. This has changed due to new climate policies and commitments outlined in the Paris Agreement. As part of the growing trend toward more sustainable business practices, engineers and architects are taking action to reduce the carbon footprint of the built environment. 

In September 2019, Structural Engineers 2050 (SE2050) was launched, aligning structural engineers on the global mission to eliminate the carbon footprint of building products by 2050. The engineers join the many US architectural firms that have signed onto the Architecture 2030 Challenge for Embodied Carbon, a global mission to eliminate embodied carbon from building projects by the year 2040.

Many of them are starting with concrete, one of the biggest emitters of embodied carbon in the built environment, and the most commonly used material in the world. As such, architects and engineers don't want just any concrete anymore. They want concrete with a lower carbon footprint, ideally documented by Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs)

Engineers and architects are looking for solutions to help them meet their ambitious carbon reduction goals — and they’re often willing to pay a premium for them. There is an opportunity for materials suppliers that can provide low-carbon solutions today to meet this growing demand.

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Demystifying “Green Construction”

The recent advancements in green construction materials can be confusing. To capitalize on this opportunity, concrete producers will need to do the following:

  1. Offer the products that customers are seeking Architects and engineers are proactively seeking out concrete producers that can supply low-carbon concrete to their projects. Producers that create awareness about their low-carbon offerings will have a distinct advantage.Do some research to see if anyone is offering these products in your area. Look for retrofit technologies that integrate quickly and seamlessly with your concrete plant and batching systems. You could gain the first-mover advantage and become the sole source of low-carbon concrete for your market.
  2. Join the conversation Decisions are being made on the future of construction trends with or without the involvement of materials suppliers. To achieve the best possible outcome, producers should aim to be involved in this conversation early in the cycle.By hosting breakfasts or lunch-and-learn meetings for local architects, engineers, and contractors, proactive producers are learning to speak the language of their peers and positioning themselves to capitalize on new business opportunities, pre-RFP stage.
  3. Train your teamBuild resources to train your teams to speak confidently about what they're doing, in the language that architects, engineers, and contractors understand.

Contact us to access our comprehensive resource library and training materials, and to learn more about how CarbonCure producers successfully grow their businesses while shrinking their carbon footprints.


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