December 16, 2022

Development and sustainability are no longer mutually exclusive

Scientists put the increase in warming that the earth can tolerate at 1.5 degrees – just 0.5 degrees above that, and the frequency of extreme weather with the disappearance of more animal species will increase exponentially.

This is why we are seeing a growing consensus across industries on the subjects of ESG and carbon reduction, two areas in which enterprises need to make strong efforts to maintain a competitive edge. The cement and construction industry, however, plays an especially critical role. 

According to statistics from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), nearly 40% of global greenhouse gas emissions come from the construction industry, putting it higher than manufacturing and logistics, and 9% comes from construction’s core resource – concrete. The chemical reaction needed to create the raw materials and the high temperature combustion that produces the finished concrete product both produce an unavoidably high amount of carbon.  

That’s why the cement industry is eager to find solutions and shuck the labels of being a big carbon emitter and the world’s most polluting industry. The mainstream approach at the moment is to collect CO2 emitted during the production process for reuse or storage, though as this is a high energy-consuming process, it can only be credited with damage reduction at best.  

But Partanna, a new venture invested in by Cherubic, is leading a sea change. 

Partanna was co-founded by former NBA star and the Bahamas Ambassador-at-large, Rick Fox, and architect Sam Marshall. They discovered by chance that brine, the byproduct of seawater desalination, can be turned into a new form of building materials when combined with waste steel. The new building material can make coastal houses more resistant to hurricanes and seawater erosion. 

Because of its extremely high salt content, brine can be deadly to marine life in areas rich with the chemical, with brine pools even being described by experts as “death pools”. Dealing with brine has been a major pain point for island nations that rely on desalination to provide clean drinking water. But Partanna’s technology is helping to repurpose brine into a building material that can absorb carbon. 

Not only does Partanna skirt the need for high-temperature combustion in the production process, it can directly absorb CO2 from the air, generating carbon credits. This means it reduces emissions as well as earns carbon-negative status. Compared to a house built with traditional concrete, which can emit 70.2 tons of CO2,  an 1,250 sq ft house built with Partanna can remove 22.5 tons of CO2.  

Partanna has already been certified by the world’s leading environmental standards organization, Verra, as a carbon-reducing material. The revenue generated by the startup’s carbon credits will be used for various social impact projects as well as to help low-income families solve the problem of finding affordable housing.

At the recent COP27 climate summit held in Egypt, Prime Minister Philip Davis of the Bahamas announced that his government will partner with Partanna to create the world’s first carbon-negative housing development plan, building 1,000 houses made with Partanna building materials. At the same time, Partanna has also signed an MOU with the “Red Sea” tourism development plan proposed by the Saudi Arabian government. The goal is to create an island resort that poses no threat to the local ecology.

Forests and marine algae have been designated as blue carbon and green carbon, respectively, for their ability to absorb CO2. Now, we have “gray carbon” in the form of building materials capable of absorbing CO2 through sustainable building materials. New technologies like Partanna are making development and sustainability no longer a single choice question. 

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