Beyond business as usual:
The energy and carbon performance of our road infrastructure
Uberbinder, Inc. is a diverse group of like-minded multi-national entrepreneurs, scientists, philanthropists and investors with significant experience developing and building successful products and businesses around the world with a common aim to maximize the society-wide benefits that low carbon sustainable building materials can offer transportation infrastructure.
Uberbinder® is a patented organic binder solution that significantly increases performance in roadbuilding by removing and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We are validating our product efficacy for field testing with a range of recyclables including plastics and RAP, repurposed building materials and traditional aggregate.
In the quest to provide infrastructure solutions that predict and provide for our growing economy and population, we as an industry continue to develop incremental solutions to maximize efficiency and profitability. This is the factory model of the first and second industrial revolutions, which includes a tendency to externalize the steep costs of social and environmental harm to our communities and regulators. By design, we are not responsible.
The highly extractive take-make-dispose approach is so ingrained in our ways of working that the cumulative effect of a historic fixation on energy and carbon intensive building materials have brought our mutual responsibility into sharp focus.
If innovation means anything, it means change. For the road building industry, true innovation will mean root-level changes that challenge and disrupt business-as-usual for the greater good. There is a growing pressure to introduce society-wide benefits that take into account living responsibly within planetary boundaries, and in better balance with our natural world.
We all have some notion of the consequences of doing nothing. To bring our world into balance we must move together toward a strong, sustainable performance model. We can no longer achieve the level of change required for balance through incremental solutions.
Innovation by its nature is not linear, nor are its definitions the same for everyone. At its core, innovation is driven by questioning minds.
So, what is the question?
We are all comfortable with our system of roadbuilding and with the companies that deliver the best possible performance using conventional bitumen and OPC binders. We have learned to cleverly add elements, emulsions, and extenders, all to enhance the final result using all sorts of developmental chemistry, but we have all overlooked one big question in this process:
Is there only one way to build a good road?
While demand for concrete and asphalt continues to grow, energy and carbon performance of infrastructure is the defining challenge for our generation of policy makers, regulators, and road builders. These essential building materials are highly energy intensive and responsible for more than 10% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. Construction, manufacturing and transportation infrastructure produce well in excess of one third of global emissions.
While activists and world leaders are preoccupied with the challenges of transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy, the carbon intensity of road infrastructure remains under reported, if at all.
Governments spend billions of dollars every year for the maintenance and extension of road networks. The fact that the average service life of roads is 10-15 years provides us all with a clear event horizon directly connected to the Paris Agreement in 2035 and 2050. We have the responsibility and opportunity to lead the way in energy and carbon efficiency by focusing on the removal - rather than the reduction - of emissions for the next cycle of renewal.
Given the growth trajectory around the world detailed by the G20 - $1.2 trillion in 2022 to maintain the status quo for our 50+ million miles of navigable roads - the energy and carbon performance of our road infrastructure will play a decisive role in shaping the success or failure of how we mitigate the issue of energy and carbon efficiency. For its 2.7 million miles of paved roads the U.S. alone spends $150 billion every year on road construction using more than 400 million tons of energy and carbon intensive road building materials. European governments forecast spending a similar $120 billion every year until 2030.
Can we improve from incremental changes within the existing system to find a new path that reframes the problems with new opportunity?
We at Uberbinder think so.
Figure 1 - Uberbinder ® model for performance assessment of asphalt and concrete
To do this the roadbuilding industry must continue to encourage a funnel of innovators to work to compliment and improve the existing system. Only rapid change of attitude and action to which we all adapt together will allow us to meet the requirements of the Paris Agreement without compromising performance.
Uberbinder® organic polymer binder is an advanced material innovation. It is a binder material that brings natural balance and improved performance to the heart of roadbuilding. As a Public Benefit company focused on Sustainable Transportation Infrastructure, our vision is to use our resources to bring change and performance improvement. Our advanced patented binder technology creates road building materials that are more energy efficient, less carbon intensive and address the pressing need to build greater resilience into our road systems: We all know, severe fluctuations in surface temperatures accelerate rutting and cracking, with heat and water damage from extreme weather causing premature end-of-life events to our road infrastructure, capital investments, and social stability.
Uberbinder is focused on using naturally abundant resources along with local waste resources including plastics and recyclables. Our binder is made using scalable materials and our mix designs utilize our unique binding properties to allow more extensive use of minimally processed, repurposed and recyclable materials. Our patented formula allows storage, transportation and application at ambient temperature removing heat from the existing process potentially saving billions of dollars in fuel costs alone.
What everyone wants and needs are roads that are highly resistant to rutting and cracking, are low maintenance, and can deliver the required levels of climate resilience to withstand conditions caused by the year-on-year increase in extreme weather events.
We all want to make things better. We are all in the business of performance. What we must prepare for is sustainability becoming a key performance indicator. Our industry has the responsibility to shoulder part of the immense commitment of our generation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while continuing to operate efficiently and profitably. Looking even further than that, we have an opportunity to leave a lasting legacy.
For more information: uberbinder.com
Author: Jonathan Davis
Jonathan Davis is Co-founder & Chief Commercial Officer at Uberbinder ®