Concrete, in construction, structural material consisting of a hard, chemically inert particulate substance, known as aggregate (usually sand and gravel), that is bonded together by cement and water. Concrete can be the foundation of buildings, bridges, highways, roads and more.
During the recent pandemic, concrete and cement industries suffered the same phenomena impacting other essential materials and goods: reduced supply chains and the lack of enough labor. And the demand for concrete — and its essential ingredient, cement — seems to have only gone up, after the $1 trillion infrastructure package was passed to upgrade America’s roads, bridges and tunnels.
The consumption of cement in the United States has steadily increased since the 2008 Recession, reaching roughly 102 million metric tons in 2020.
“In the short-term, we continue to have the supply chain difficulties, particularly in certain markets, and so prices are rising,” Said Anirban Basu, chief economist for the national construction industry trade association Associated Builders and Contractors. “So right now, apparently, supply is not rising up to meet demand.”
The industry also encounters labor shortages of skilled workers and truck drivers. And the recent housing boom means a rise in the demand for concrete and cement, pressing the industry to increase capacity.
On the other hand, there’s also a push to reduce the amount of carbon emissions. A study done by the National Academy of Sciences in 2019 states that global cement production is accountable for 8% of carbon emissions in the world. Therefore, it is considered the largest single industrial emitter of carbon dioxide.