Q&A with Dr. Sean Monkman On 25 Years Advancing Concrete Sustainability & ACI Foundation’s Concrete Innovation Award

CarbonCure’s Senior Vice President of Technology Development, Dr. Sean Monkman, has been awarded the esteemed Jean-Claude Roumain Innovation in Concrete Award by the ACI Foundation. This prestigious award acknowledges Sean's remarkable achievements in concrete sustainability and his pioneering efforts in advancing carbon utilization within the concrete sector through his contributions at CarbonCure. 

The Innovation in Concrete Award, established in 2010 in memory of long-time ACI committee member Jean-Claude Roumain, honors the innovators of the concrete industry. It recognizes individuals who have contributed to original developments in concrete production or have used concrete in innovative ways to create a more sustainable built environment. 

On the heels of Sean’s acceptance of the award at the ACI Concrete Convention in San Francisco, we sat down with him to reflect on his 25 years advancing concrete sustainability and innovation. 

Q: How does it feel to receive this remarkable industry recognition, with past recipients of the Innovation in Concrete Award including Karen Scrivener, Larry Sutter and Kamal Khayat? 

A: I've been fortunate enough to meet many of these trailblazing individuals throughout my career. Their contributions to the industry have always inspired me. I am deeply humbled and honored to receive this award and to be recognized alongside them.

Q: An award like this must make you reflect on your 25-year career. What are you most proud of?

A: Firstly, I am incredibly proud of the CarbonCure R&D team and their work in transforming our ready mix technology into a commercial product. Seeing the technology used in hundreds of concrete plants worldwide to support sustainability and improved profitability through cement reductions is very rewarding. 

Winning the Carbon XPRIZE was also a big highlight for me. One early-adopter of CarbonCure, Thomas Concrete, played a key role in the demonstration of CarbonCure’s CO2 utilization technology in the semi-final round. We succeeded and moved on to the final round where we built a carbon mineralization system for concrete plant reclaimed water that is now being deployed commercially across North America and Europe. Overall, the journey to the win the XPRIZE was long, winding and full of lessons, and the win really validated CarbonCure as the global leader in climate tech for concrete which helped accelerate our growth trajectory.

Q: Could you have ever imagined receiving such an award when CarbonCure was founded 10 years ago?

A: I feel this recognition is not just for me, but also for the entire Research team at CarbonCure, whose innovations in carbon utilization and mineralization in concrete over the past decade are nothing short of amazing. 

Having an innovative idea is not enough. You need contributions from the engineering team to make it a reality, a business plan to justify moving forward, sales and marketing expertise to take the product to market, and most importantly, visionary concrete producers who are willing to take a chance on new technologies.

I can’t stress the importance of our early-adopter customers enough. Injecting carbon dioxide into concrete is a completely different approach to reducing cement content than anything ever tried before. 

Producers like imi, Thomas Concrete and Ozinga understood the vision and cared enough about sustainability to take a chance on CarbonCure in a commercial setting. They have been incredible partners on our journey and shared their experiences with other curious producers along the way. Thanks to their leadership in the industry — and the efficacy of the technology — we have been able to prove the value of CarbonCure. 

I’m just ecstatic to see our innovations scaling so rapidly today, with more than 700 systems sold, hundreds of customers worldwide and more than 250,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide saved so far.

Q: What role does the wider technical community play in advancing concrete sustainability? 

A: Carbon dioxide utilization in concrete didn’t exist until recently so the field is new and still evolving rapidly. We have developed numerous patents around our inventions, but having strong IP protection and good marketing messages is not enough. We need to interface with our peers in the technical community, as they are the scientific gatekeepers. Innovation that happens in a vacuum doesn’t help anybody. We need to create a network effect with our peers and industry players.

We openly share what we’ve learned with the technical community through peer-reviewed papers and presentations. I further participate in various committees in the American Concrete Institute including Sustainability, Materials, Admixtures, Nanotechnology and Performance Specification.

Q: What do you predict is next for concrete innovation and sustainability?

A: The concrete industry is really well-placed to adopt and benefit from carbon removal solutions due to its enormous global scale, its high demand, its permanence and the value-added benefits that can be achieved for producers from solutions like CarbonCure. 

But there is no silver bullet to decarbonize concrete, so we plan to keep up the pace of our innovation and continue enhancing our technologies to benefit our concrete producer partners. To meet our mission, CarbonCure needs to increase our carbon savings by deploying our solutions as fast and as widely as possible.

What’s exciting is that we’re seeing real tailwinds with our efforts because producers have seen the true economic benefits of using our technologies. They are able to optimize mix designs to cut cement, tap into carbon credit revenue, reduce their operating expenses and win more business opportunities with growing demand for sustainable construction. It’s been a thrill to witness all of this over the years.

Congrats again, Sean!

To explore a selection of technical papers, reference projects, case studies and more, visit CarbonCure's resource library.

How SBTi’s New Standards Could Unlock Corporate Climate Potential Thumbnail
April 12, 2024

How SBTi’s New Standards Could Unlock Corporate Climate Potential

The Science-Based Targets Initiative (SBTi)’s advisory board has announced a significant forthcoming update to its Corporate Net Zero Standard. Learn what this means for the voluntary carbon market, corporate action and global climate efforts.
An Introduction to Low Carbon Concrete  Thumbnail
February 13, 2024

An Introduction to Low Carbon Concrete 

Learn what low carbon concrete is and how it can be adopted on a broader scale to help the concrete industry meet its carbon reduction goals.