“We try to be as environmentally conscious as we can,” says Jeff Krupcale, President of Superior Materials Holdings. “We are starting to see more interest in it, and with that interest, as a leader in this market, we wanted to lead with sustainable offerings in this market.”
Krupcale reports that Superior Materials is the first ready-mix concrete producer in Southeast Michigan to offer an array of sustainable options.
Although Michigan owners have not demanded sustainable concrete to the extent in other parts of the country – such as California – Krupcale notes growing requests for more environmentally friendly options from owners, including from the automakers, who are trying to meet carbon-neutral goals.
“Anything we can do to help reduce the impact of carbon and climate change is important,” Krupcale says. “These sustainable options we are offering will do that.”
Experts consider concrete a sustainable material due to its long life-cycle, lower life-cycle costs and resilience following disasters, but Krupcale explains that “cement is responsible for a high percentage of the carbon output in the world. The cement industry is working on ways to minimize that.”
“Our main objective when we offer sustainable options for our concrete is to reduce the amount of cement in the concrete, yet still obtain the ultimate strength that is required,” Krupcale explains. “While we’ve been delivering some high-performance, low-carbon mixes for more than a decade, the selection has greatly increased.”
The range of carbon-reducing additives Superior Materials currently offers includes air entraining agents, water-reducing chemicals, retarders, accelerators, and superplasticizers or high-range water reducers. The company works with engineers and contractors to educate them about the various sustainable options so if they can still obtain the concrete strength they want, just in a more sustainable way.
In one recent offering, the company has partnered with CarbonCure to provide a concrete that introduces recycled carbon dioxide to improve compressive strength and decrease the amount of cement used in the mix. CarbonCure uses a mineralization process that permanently stores the carbon in the concrete and eliminates it from the atmosphere. The process involved retrofitting Superior Material’s plants with CarbonCure’s equipment to inject the carbon dioxide during mixing.
“We were the first in Michigan to offer customers CarbonCure,” Krupcale reports. “I can see us using it in the majority of our mixes to help reduce the carbon output for the industry.”
Superior Materials also is using portland limestone cement in its concrete mixes, rather than ordinary portland cement, resulting in a decrease in the carbon footprint by about 10 percent.
“In some markets, the portland limestone cement has become the new standard product for cement,” Krupcale says.
And another sustainability option is to decrease the cement content by specifying 56-day strength for the concrete instead of the standard 28-day strength.
“In doing that, you can still achieve the ultimate strength required, but you can use less cement,” Krupcale says.
A recent addition is NITROcrete, a liquid nitrogen cooling process that provides better control of the concrete’s temperature.
“NITROcrete is applied during the batching process using an automated application process,” Krupcale says. “It provides improved workability of the mix as well as reducing waste and carbon emissions.”
All of these options help to reduce the carbon output and can be used together. There may be a nominal additional cost associated with some of the sustainable products, but as the demand for such products increases, more sustainable options will become the norm, he adds.
“Even in our ‘regular’ concrete, we do things to help reduce the carbon output associated with those mixtures,” says Krupcale, who reports already using supplementary cementitious materials and a variety of additives in its concrete. “Everybody will be getting concrete with more sustainable options as we add these, and they become our regular mixes.”
The company serves Southeastern Michigan, including Metro Detroit, Lansing, Flint, and Ann Arbor. Superior Materials operates 15 ready-mix production facilities and several portable plants.
“Our focus is on large commercial work,” Krupcale says. “Our customers trust us and use us for technically complicated concrete work, because they value our expertise, service and quality.”
Superior Materials has performed concrete work on many major projects, including the Ford Michigan Central Station in Detroit, the Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, multiple Amazon warehouses, and several high-rise buildings. The company currently is working on the 1.4 million-square-foot, 60-story, mixed-use development rising from the former Hudson’s department store site in downtown Detroit and the Chemical Bank Headquarters building.
The company also is certified by the state, the city of Detroit, and Wayne County to deliver concrete to Michigan Department of Transportation and other road, bridge, and building projects.
Looking ahead, Krupcale plans to add more portable plants to serve specific projects within its service area, such as large paving and warehouse jobs. The company also expects to add more sustainability options.
“The key for Superior is ensuring we continue to strive to exceed our customers’ expectations in those areas of quality and service, with new technologies and offerings and continuing to lead the market,” Krupcale concludes.
Photos courtesy of Superior Materials