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BLOG: Michael McSweeney at Converge 2013

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by Journal Of Commerce

Michael McSweeney, the president and CEO of the Cement Association of Canada, spoke to industry peers at the Converge 2013 conference in Vancouver on October 16th.

Michael McSweeney, the president and CEO of the Cement Association of Canada, spoke to industry peers at the Converge 2013 conference in Vancouver on October 16th.

McSweeney’s presentation, “shared interests and contributions to sustainable infrastructure,” focused on the cement and concrete’s sustainability initiatives. He said reducing environmental footprints has been a prime concern.

He added there has been much success in reducing carbon footprints, but that message has not gotten out to the public.

Wood has been able to project sustainability, and steel has been able to emphasize its infinite recyclability, while concrete has been able to point to strength in the face of changing weather patterns.

But unlike wood, cement and concrete claims of sustainability have been met with skepticism, he said. McSweeney pointed to how concrete is being used in critical infrastructure, and does in fact reduce emissions, but context is lost in the broader media.

No single sector can scale the sustainability gap alone, he said, but together each element can contribute.

The best thing for sustainability, McSweeney said, is that the competitive dynamics between the various industries involved with building should be used in service of a tool that creates sustainability.

Human progress and sustainability are not mutually exclusive, he said. Ideology has made that the perception, but it is not the case.

Cement is also difficult to explain simply, he added. The perception is of an industry that is becoming incrementally “less bad,” he said. But concrete is the foundation of the ancient and the modern world, he said, and that human experience has to go back into the centre of concrete’s value proposition.

And there is much to learn from wood’s transformation in the last decade in terms of public perception, McSweeney said. The concrete industry should focus on the life cycle sustainability of its product, which actually reflects quite well to other sustainable alternatives.

McSweeney also pointed to the concept of resilience, emphasizing the importance of structures that will be able to withstand extreme weather patterns that will inexorably rise in years to come.

Concrete will be a key component of creating resilient cities, which McSweeney said would become even more important as the majority of humanity makes its homes in cities.

McSweeney also pointed to the recent formation of the Concrete Council of Canada as one example of the industry coming together to collectively pursue sustainability solutions. He said the council welcomes the Converge conference and will advocate for a second conference to continue dialogue.

JOC DIGITAL MEDIA

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