In the ongoing fight against climate change, a new sustainable housing project in the Bahamas offers a ray of hope. Led by NBA Lakers legend-turned-actor, Rick Fox, Partanna, a sustainable building materials startup, has unveiled its first home constructed with an alternative concrete that actively reduces carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. With plans to build 999 more homes like it, this project aims to revolutionize the construction industry by offering an everyday building material that cuts down pollution caused by traditional concrete.
Rick Fox, the CEO and co-founder of Partanna, felt a strong urge to address the destruction caused by Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas in 2019. Witnessing the devastation from afar, he made the conscious decision to leave his Hollywood career behind and pursue climate change solutions. Teaming up with California-based architect Sam Marshall, who had developed a method for creating cement-free concrete after experiencing the Woolsey fire, they founded Partanna to implement their sustainable building vision. By eliminating cement, the main culprit behind greenhouse gas emissions in traditional concrete, Partanna’s innovative alternative offers a promising solution.
The Process and Ingredients
Partanna’s concrete recipe involves brine obtained from desalination plants and slag, a byproduct of steel production. By excluding cement, the manufacturing process significantly reduces carbon dioxide emissions. The alternative concrete cures at ambient temperatures, requiring less energy, and its binder ingredients absorb and trap CO2 from the air. Remarkably, even in the event of demolition, the material retains the CO2 it has accumulated and can be reused as an aggregate to produce more carbon-negative concrete.
Assessing Carbon Capture
Partanna claims that the carbon-negative home, a 1,250-square-foot structure, captures as much CO2 as 5,200 mature trees per year. However, accurately measuring carbon capture remains a challenge, as highlighted by a recent investigation by The Guardian into rainforest offsets certified by Verra, a leading carbon credit certifier. Verra is also certifying carbon credits for Partanna. While Partanna asserts that quantifying their CO2 capture is more reliable than tree-based offsets, it is crucial for the company to share its data and undergo comprehensive analysis to evaluate the environmental impact of its entire manufacturing process.
Accounting for Emissions and Establishing Scalability
It is worth noting that Partanna’s key ingredients, slag and brine, are sourced from energy-intensive steel and desalination facilities that can generate significant CO2 emissions. At present, Partanna does not factor these emissions into its carbon footprint calculation. Nevertheless, experts emphasize the importance of conducting a thorough systems analysis to determine the overall climate impact of Partanna’s concrete. Transparency and data sharing are vital to enable researchers to fully assess the company’s environmental footprint and determine the scalability of their approach.
Partanna is not alone in its pursuit of sustainable building materials. Microsoft recently announced its testing of low-carbon concrete for data centers, and other startups are exploring methods of capturing CO2 from the atmosphere and incorporating it into concrete. However, Partanna believes they have an advantage due to their concrete’s ability to grow stronger when exposed to seawater. This characteristic is highly advantageous for a country like the Bahamas, which consists of low-lying islands vulnerable to increasingly severe storms and rising sea levels. The government of the Bahamas has formed a partnership with Partanna to construct 1,000 homes, with the initial focus on building a community of 29 additional houses by the following year.
Partanna’s alternative concrete offers a glimmer of hope in the battle against climate change and the need for sustainable construction. By eliminating cement and actively absorbing CO2, this innovative material has the potential to significantly reduce carbon emissions in the construction industry. However, comprehensive analysis is required to ensure the environmental sustainability and scalability of this solution. As the frontline of climate change and solutions alike, the Bahamas, alongside Partanna, is boldly embracing the challenge of building a more sustainable future.