Low Carbon Concrete Within Aggressive Ground

Global demand for concrete, the primary volume construction material for most structural applications, continues to grow. The majority of concrete relies on use of Portland cement (PC) as the only economic binder meeting performance and durability requirements under the wide range of conditions in which concrete is used. However, PC manufacture accounts for c.8% of global CO2 emissions so alternatives are urgently required. 50% of ready-mixed concrete is used in foundations below ground and must be carefully designed to resist chemical attack (e.g. sulfates as described in BRE Special Digest 1, Concrete in Aggressive Ground), often increasing the amount of cement used in the foundation and consequently the environmental impact. However, AACMs are not covered by existing concrete standards and therefore unable to be widely used.

The Innovate UK and industry funded LOCOWAG project will develop and assess (via laboratory testing and site pilots) innovative concrete formulations in which PC is replaced with novel alkali-activated cementitious materials (AACMs). AACMs have the potential to reduce the CO2 associated with a concrete foundation relative to PC. AACMs are also more resistant to chemical attack, de-risking the use of concrete in the ground. LOCOWAG will enable the AACM market to grow by unlocking markets for AACMs in critical construction applications, creating a high- volume market for AACM and low carbon cement manufacturers more widely.

This £603K, 2-year project commenced on the 1st November 2020, and is led by DB Group (Holdings) Limited (DBG), together with a supply chain orientated consortium of a piling contractor, J Murphy and Sons (Murphy Ground Engineering), a precast pile manufacturer, Centrum Pile Limited, and BRE, an impartial centre of expertise that also develops application guidance for the construction industry, who will carry out the laboratory testing essential for updating guidance and support DBG in programme management.

The project has six Work Packages:

  • WP 1 – Programme Management
  • WP2 – Barriers, Requirements, Stakeholder Engagement and Dissemination
  • WP3 – Mix Designs
  • WP4 – Durability Testing
  • WP5 – Trials (precast and cast in situ)
  • WP6 – Business Models and Next Steps

DBG and project partners will work with standards bodies to address key standards-related barriers to market uptake. An Industry stakeholder group (regulators, manufacturers, end-users) will help guide outputs (e.g. BRE guidance documents) and address barriers to mainstream use.

The project will:

  • Develop, assess and demonstrate AACM concrete formulations meeting user needs for foundations (buildings and infrastructure).
  • Demonstrate and assess use of AACMs in piling to de-risk adoption.
  • Carry out laboratory tests to assess durability of AACM concrete formulations in sulfate-rich conditions (and other key performance characteristics), and compare with those of PC-based and other AACM-based concretes, as a driver for new industry-wide guidance/standards (such as BS8500, BRE IP 17/05 and BRE SD1).
  • Assess business models and barriers to market and address these.
  • Convene an industry Stakeholder group via A3CM to support the production of new industry guidance.


Project Members