Transforming Our Future: The Carbontech Revolution
Buildings and construction account for nearly 40 percent of global CO2 emissions, a level that is wholly unsustainable. Carbontech promises to change that.
A new wave of carbon reduction technology is emerging, capable of capturing and embedding large amounts of carbon into all of the products around us, with the goal of decreasing harmful emissions and our collective environmental footprint.
Companies throughout the economy are getting creative about keeping greenhouse gas emissions out of the air from industrial and manufacturing activities, as well as capturing existing CO2 particles and repurposing them into a useful input material.
The process of taking carbon particles out of the air and infusing them into products—from building materials to plastics, fabrics to vehicles—is called carbon utilization, otherwise known as carbontech.
The vision of carbontech: products are fundamentally similar in makeup, function, and application, but no emissions are released during their manufacturing process.
According to Carbon180, “the economic opportunity for carbontech is huge: The U.S. total available market (TAM) is $1.07 trillion per year, and global TAM is $5.91 trillion per year.”
Carbon180 estimates that the top three global markets for carbontech are fuels ($3.82 trillion), building materials ($1.37 trillion), and plastics ($0.41 trillion).
Carbontech and the Built Environment
Carbontech companies in the concrete, asphalt, and aggregates sectors have an estimated annual market value of $100 billion in the U.S. and $1.4 trillion globally.
Companies like CarbonCure have already developed solutions for sequestering CO2 into concrete, injecting CO2 from factory exhaust into the cement mix so that it can infiltrate and mineralize in concrete—a process that is both groundbreaking and essential, given that concrete production is one of the most intensive processes in our entire economy accounting for approximately 7 percent of annual global CO2 emissions. Not only does this process reduce emissions, the addition of the CO2 yields a stronger material.
CarbonCure estimates that, to date, it has delivered over a million truckloads of its carbon-injected concrete to construction sites, while having prevented nearly 100,000 metric tons of CO2 from entering the atmosphere.
Wood-based panels like oriented strand board (OSB), high and medium-density fiberboard (HDF and MDF), hardboard, and plywood will undergo carbontech-induced transformation, as these engineered wood panels get replaced by low-value waste wood and wood scraps to reduce dependence on non-composite timber. The annual market value of newly designed wood-based panels is expected to reach approximately $12 billion in the U.S. and $100 billion globally.
Estimated U.S. and Global market for carbontech, Source: Carbon180
A Fresh Approach
To spur innovation in the carbontech sector, the Biden Administration is offering tax incentives—about $20 million has already been allocated to companies that have sequestered or reused carbon in products, and an additional $6 billion has been earmarked for companies developing carbon capture, storage, and utilization technologies.
Perhaps the best part of the carbontech revolution is that it provides a much-needed economic incentive to capture carbon particles rather than release them into the atmosphere, motivating utilities and manufacturers to develop innovative ways to profit from converting carbon from a waste product into a useful material.
Assigning a value to CO2 completely transforms conventional thinking—instead of being a harmful planet-heating gas, it is now becoming a valuable resource, playing a vital role in the development of a truly circular economy.
A Blended Approach
While carbontech can help reduce our annual global output of 31 billion metric tons of CO2, it can’t solve climate change alone. Carbon utilization techniques must be deployed in combination with renewable energy, full electrification of buildings and transportation, regenerative agriculture, direct air carbon capture from power plants and factories, better land use practices, and other strategies for eliminating emissions.
The Department of Energy (DOE) estimates that homes and buildings in the U.S. account for 40% of our nation’s total energy use, 70% of electricity use, and 40% of total emissions, so the conversion to net zero, all-electric, healthy, connected homes and buildings is vital.
Carbontech will no doubt play a role in that transition, and so will innovative products like heat pump HVAC systems and water heaters; super-efficient solar panels, inverters, and storage systems; induction cooktops; high performance windows, insulation, and building envelope systems; and cool roofs with radiant coatings.
To achieve optimum health and wellness, carbon must be monitored inside our homes and buildings in addition to in the outdoor environment—an aspiration that has become a reality with proactive IAQ systems like Cosmos from Panasonic, which monitor CO2, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), toxins, dust, temperature and humidity. When poor IAQ is sensed, the system turns on vent fans, ERVs, range hoods, or other air filtration systems.
The Road Ahead
To facilitate the adoption of carbontech, a bipartisan group of Senators and House Representatives have introduced the SCALE Act, which, if approved, would allocate approximately $5 billion to a nationwide carbon transport and storage network so that companies could easily access the gas for an input material.
Even with Congressional support, carbontech faces a steep road ahead. New technologies can take decades to develop and realize meaningful market adoption—and carbontech has a particularly long (and capital intensive) development and sales cycle—not to mention that carbontech’s main competitor, the fossil fuel industry, isn’t known for fighting fair.
But the growing urgency for climate action and carbon-neutral products is leveling the playing field for carbontech, and there is a viable pathway to develop sustainable alternatives at price parity with fossil fuels.
Branches of the U.S. government, like the military and postal service, are already finding ways to utilize carbon utilization products, and corporate behemoths like Microsoft are pouring millions of dollars into carbontech companies and major carbon removal efforts, which will surely cause a ripple effect, propelling us towards a decarbonized future.
Publisher’s Note: This content is made possible by our Today’s Home Buyer Campaign Sponsors: Panasonic, Whirlpool, Rockwool, and Lee Industries. These companies take sustainability seriously, in both their products and their operations. Learn more about building and buying homes that are more affordable and less resource-intensive on Today's Home Buyer.