Concrete.ai, a Los Angeles–based data science startup describing itself as being “on a mission to avoid 500 million tons of carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere annually,” announced last week the beta launch of a new software platform developed to reduce the cost and embodied carbon intensity in concrete construction. As detailed by the company, the tool “delivers unparalleled reductions” in the cost and embodied carbon intensity through the AI-driven optimization of concrete—specifically ready-mixed and precast concrete—design and production. Per Concrete.ai, the result is “a highly optimized, cost-effective concrete that fulfills all engineering and performance characteristics, while utilizing locally available raw materials to ensure safety, longevity, and code-compliance.”
The platform debuted as one of six emerging, AI-driven technologies showcased as part of Startup Alley, a major component of the annual AI Dev World conference. This year’s event was held in-person late last month in San Jose and will be presented virtually from November 1–3. (More details on the virtual edition of the 2022 can be found here.)
Prior to the beta launch of its software-as-a-service solution, the company conducted pre-commercial pilot testing with several large concrete manufacturers and verified reductions in the material cost and embodied carbon intensity of ready-mixed concrete by up to 12 and 70 percent, respectively. “These successful tests have enabled company engineers to focus on algorithm refinement, as well as create a series of User Interface improvements designed to make it easier for companies to run the platform,” the company said.
“Our platform leverages AI to increase both the speed and accuracy of concrete mixture design by converting what is usually a time-consuming “trial and error” routine into a precise and efficient process,” added Alex Hall, CEO of Concrete.ai, in a press statement. “By merging what machines do best—extremely fast data processing—with the best of what experienced engineers and concrete professionals offer—human judgment—Concrete.ai has created a new pathway to safe, sustainable and lower-cost concrete construction by giving producers power over their data.”
The core technology employed by Concrete.ai was developed at the University of California, Los Angeles’s Institute for Carbon Management (ICM) by Gaurav N. Sant and Mathieu Bauchy, both of whom are faculty members in UCLA’s Samueli School of Engineering in the Departments of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Sant also serves as director of the ICM and is a faculty member in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering.
Enhancing concrete performance in construction has historically been an imperfect—and thus, wasteful—affair yielding partially optimized formulations or formulations that are over-calibrated and contain excess concrete. As estimated by the company, concrete overdesign costs the industry more than $2.4 billion annually, and results in 10 million metric tons of incremental carbon dioxide emissions associated with cement production. If the company’s platform were to be adapted on a global scale, its mission of eliminating 500 million tons of carbon emissions stemming from the concrete industry would be achieved.
The carbon footprint of concrete production is a formidable one with roughly 8 percent of the world’s carbon emissions coming from the cement industry.