CRH is a diversified building materials business that claims to be a leader in the world of this sector. The company makes anything from cement, construction accessories, asphalt, and etc. CRH spans across 29 countries, mainly in the United States, Europe, Australia, and Asia. The company leads in different products and different countries and their needs. However, in the United States, CRH claims to be the #1 producer for asphalt. The main use for asphalt is to build roads for vehicle transportation. At the time of this article, the U.S. gave bipartisan approval for a $1 trillion infrastructure bill to rebuild the nation’s roads. Ultimately, this means that we are going to be using a tremendous amount of asphalt throughout the coming years. Since there is no way of getting around this material, the only thing to do is see how much it can cost the environment.
Asphalt is a paving solution that is made from a mixture of aggregates, binder, and filler. Aggregates are a processed mineral that usually consist of crushed rock, sand, gravel, slags, or other kinds of recycled materials. The binder ingredient is the black mixture in which we only really see from the finished product. That ‘binder’ is a mix of hydrocarbons obtained from the residue of petroleum distillation. In other words, this is known as “bitumen” which is basically crude oil. Keep in mind though that petroleum itself is naturally occurring and found beneath the Earth’s surface. However, when this kind of oil is released into the air, it is a whole different beast due to the toxins. CRH in specific claims to be investing heavily in recycled materials that they call, “Reclaimed Asphalt Pavement” which is to reuse old asphalt that has already been laid out and add that mix to a new one. This new method of reusing old asphalt is the only real positive coming from this process of road building.
Building a road is far more complex than just applying asphalt on to the floor and flattening it out. First, the topography must be established for the land of the designated road. Once the engineers and the developers have chosen the best route for road placement, everything must be taken out from the surface level of the floor. Meaning that new soil may have to be added to the route or even taken out to make sure that there is enough support. Next, all vegetation must be cleared out.Which means that biodiversity will be reduced because this process destroys local ecosystems. Underlying electrical and water utilities/drainage are also conducted before the asphalt is applied to the surface level. This process leads to storm pipelines for excessive water that can be transferred into a detention pond. All of this is to ensure that the roads do not stay flooded when it rains. With all of the preproduction completed, onto the actual laying of the roads. The process typically starts with the aggregate base. Asphalt is then paved onto the base by a paving train. Once the asphalt is compacted and cooled, lane stripes are painted onto the roads. Let’s not forget that heavy duty construction vehicles are used to make all of this work, which use a lot of gas to operate. I could not find a number in which emissions were due just to vehicles. However, CRH gave the numbers of their total Scope emissions which is 45.9 million tonnes of CO2 emissions through all three levels. On their 2020 sustainability report, almost every resource used and emissions expended has gone up in numbers. The company claims to be collaborating with several organizations to reach a climate action goal. Yet, so far there are only promises to keep getting better and hit net neutrality by 2030. Not to mention, that the continuation of road building creates even more habitat fragmentation which prevents gene flow from populations of species.
CRH is an international building material company that was founded in 1970 with its current headquarters in Dublin, Ireland. The company currently holds 77,000 employees in the year 2022 and expects to keep growing as time goes on. Once again, this is one of the leaders in the world for this sector of construction. The company has been making big acquisitions with other businesses in other countries as well. So it would seem likely that this track record of buying up other companies is a sure trend. Now the point of determining whether this company is more or less sustainable than others is a little tricky. This is difficult in the sense that the company is one of few companies, which almost makes it a monopoly in that sense. In this manner, the company is still performing badly within itself as its percentage of resources and emissions go up every year. This is a real problem if the trend of acquiring more companies every year continues. Promises are being made but more vegetation is being cleared out every year. Sources say that asphalt is a very green product since it is the most widely recycled material in the United States. Yet, what about the other factors it may cause. For example, the urban heat island effect, in which the asphalt absorbs the heat from the sun then puts it back in the air which makes cities much hotter and take longer to cool off. Instead of trying to be more sustainable with asphalt and trying to reach a goal, maybe we should be looking into new ways to make roads with actual sustainable intentions and have more environmentally conscious urban planning behind our roads. A trillion dollar investment is a once in a blue moon action that is going to have a long term effect on the environment. Entailing that U.S. citizens may have to wait much longer before something new is done. Nothing will get done if companies such as CRH do not have a true incentive to really make things better.