On the 11th November the winners of the 2021 Sustainability Awards were announced at a glittering digital gala event. Compere Peter Colquhoun conducted proceedings as the highly commended and winning projects from 10 categories and four special awards were announced.

The occasion was the ‘night of nights’ for the architecture and design community and recognised those who have contributed to a more sustainable environment were rightly afforded their time in the spotlight.

With more entries received this year than ever before – over 250 projects, people and products – it was not only the quantity of submissions received but the outstanding calibre of design that saw the jurors debating long and hard to reach their final decisions.

However, the naming of the winner of the most prestigious of all the awards, the Best of the Best, was the crowning glory of the Sustainability Awards.

This year a unique and innovative product, ECOPact and ECOPact Zero from Holcim (Australia) Pty Ltd, was named the ultimate winner. Launched in April this year, ECOPact is a lower carbon concrete that has been developed by Holcim (Australia). Through ECOPact the carbon intensity can be reduced by 30 to 60 percent if replacing standard cement, with alternative materials.

These include industrial by-products such as fly ash, blast furnace slag or silica fume. In real terms this means that architects and contractors can achieve lower embodied carbon outcomes in their projects.

In an Australian first, Holcim also provides the opportunity to offset any remaining embodied carbon from ECOPact concrete and this is known as ECOPact Zero which means the concrete component of a project can be deemed carbon neutral.

Awarding a product as Best of the Best was an unusual decision, as projects are historically winners of the category however, this revolutionary product has taken the top accolade and Dick Clarke, Principal and Building Designer of Envirotecture and Chair of the 2021 Sustainability Awards Jury explains why.

“Those who say it cannot be done are usually interrupted by others doing it.” – James Baldwin.

“In any analysis of humanity’s global carbon emissions, one material always cops a hammering, and for usually good reason: concrete. Normal concrete’s ecological impacts are immense, both because it is used in such high volumes, and because its carbon emissions per tonne are sky-high (ahem!). It accounts for eight per cent of global carbon, equal to the world’s car fleet.

So, when a mainstream concrete company sets its own corporate goals at net zero, and its products’ emissions at net zero, we all have to sit up and take notice – especially those in the corridors of power who exhibit the leadership of a blind mullet saying ‘net zero over my dead body’.

Holcim’s ECOPact concrete has options that in ECOPact Zero drop 100 per cent of concrete’s carbon emissions. That is zero carbon concrete. It has raised the bar and shown industry and our fearful leaders just what is practically achievable in the here and now.

This is not blue-sky pie in the sky research, this is off the shelf – or out of the hopper – product.

This leadership in the materials world cannot be understated, and should give pause to those who say ‘it cannot be done’. Holcim may not occupy this space alone for long, who knows, but as the first there at scale, globally, it must be recognised as a game changer.

“The recent push by a broad range of industry leaders for ’Net Zero Carbon’ in the National Construction Code and its state-based implementations, considered embodied energy, but backed away because it is complex, and rather than pursue the perfect we went for the possible.

Yet right here we have commercially available options that leap-frog us toward easier answers on embodied carbon.

That is why the judges were unanimous in declaring Holcim ECOPact Zero the Best of the Best.” – Dick Clarke, Jury Chair 2021 Sustainability Awards reflecting on the Best of the Best winner this year.

As supporter of the 2021 Sustainability Awards and sponsor of the Best of the Best, Alspec once again showed, that as a company, their commitment to sustainable practice is unwavering.

The last few years have presented new perspectives through the onset and continuation of the pandemic and change has also been seen in this year’s Sustainability Awards. There is real movement to a more sustainable future and the winner of the Best of the Best at the 2021 Sustainability Awards is leading the way.

Congratulations to Holcim for looking to a more sustainable future.

Photography by Grant Turner.

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