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The laboratory at Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale in Lausanne, Switzerland, where researchers are working to perfect lower-carbon cement recipes. 

The laboratory at Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale in Lausanne, Switzerland, where researchers are working to perfect lower-carbon cement recipes. 

Photographer: Stefan Wermuth/Bloomberg
Green
Climate Adaptation

The Road to Greener Concrete Is Paved With Clay

Among the myriad steps needed to clean up construction, a cement made with heated clay stands out.

The Argos plant in Rioclaro, Colombia, can churn out as much as 2.3 million tons of cement a year, used to build everything from dams and bridges to skyscrapers and stadiums. That has helped make Argos the biggest cement maker in Colombiabut also a major producer of carbon-dioxide emissions.

The cement and CO2 had been pouring out of Rioclaro nonstop for more than 20 years when the chief executive of Argos met an academic named Karen Scrivener, who had a simple pitch: change the recipe for cement to incorporate clay, and slash the carbon footprint. She called it LC3, or limestone calcined clay cement.