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Building positive, carbon negative. The journey from Sphera to Low Carbon Materials (LCM)

Sphera becomes Low Carbon Materials, helping the construction sector build a net zero world

CEO Dr Natasha Boulding sat on a panel at COP26 and highlighted the urgent need for materials innovation in the built environment. 

One year on and embodied carbon (a building's emissions caused by the materials and building process) is a significant area of interest for policymakers, with notable developments from international groups like the Industrial Deep Decarbonisation Initiative, Global Cement and Concrete Association and Green Building Council. 

The increasing engagement of governments and industry with embodied carbon, environmental product declarations and life cycle assessments of a building's footprint poses a new and significant net-zero challenge to the construction sector. 

For example, the world's second most used material after water, concrete, makes up 7% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions (GCCA 2022). This contributes to the footprint of the built environment which makes up 39% of the world's energy related carbon emissions (World GBC).

As a result, the construction and materials sectors are increasingly under regulatory pressure to cut their footprint.

In the UK, the sixth carbon budget (2033-38) is aiming for an overall reduction of 78% in national carbon emissions. It also includes policy recommendations for the built environment to consider the impact of materials substitutions ‘from high to low embodied carbon materials’ and ‘whole life’ ‘mandatory’ carbon assessments and benchmarking (CCC 2020).

With its unique approach to R&D, Sphera has been rapidly growing to provide scalable carbon-negative materials solutions so that the built environment can meet the embodied carbon challenge.

To reflect a new stage of innovation and development, Sphera is changing its name to Low Carbon Materials (LCM). 

The new name encapsulates the team's focus on developing and scaling new materials to support the built environment in reaching net zero. 

Following international interest and notoriety in Low Carbon Materials' (LCM) carbon-negative concrete aggregate OSTO®, the new name also represents a step into scaling solutions for the global market.

The new stage is the culmination of a successful year since COP26, with the launch of one of the world's first carbon-negative concrete aggregates, a £1.9 million funding round, and being chosen as one of nine global companies for the Holcim accelerator. 

Keep reading for Low Carbon Materials' (LCM) top highlights from COP to COP: 

1. Launch of carbon negative concrete aggregate OSTO®, which offers a 100% reduction in embodied carbon for concrete blocks

Low Carbon Materials' (LCM) launched its product OSTO at FutureBuild amongst over 20,500 disruptors, influencers, and decision-makers.

OSTO is the carbon negative lightweight aggregate for carbon zero blockwork. It is 2.5 x lighter than traditional mineral aggregates, thermally insulating and carbon negative. 

Through innovative circular techniques, it is made from a combination of waste materials and by-products that couldn't otherwise be recycled. 

The circular process treats our waste as a solution rather than a problem. 

This combination means that use of this product offers an 100% reduction in embodied carbon, whilst the increased thermal insulation properties can act to reduce the operational carbon of the building once it’s occupied.

Globally, OSTO has the potential to save hundreds of thousands of tonnes of CO2e.

Low Carbon Materials (LCM) is developing better solutions for the built environment. As well as offering environmental benefits, the concrete blocks made with OSTO have a compressional strength of >7.3 N/mm2 and will conform with BS EN 771-3. It can be added to concrete mixes just as sand or gravel would traditionally be used.

If you are interested in OSTO please contact us to learn more:

2. £1.9 million funding round, resulting in team expansion, a new state of the art facility and company growth

To develop and scale carbon negative materials for the built environment, LCM closed a £1.9 million funding round, led by the Green Angel Syndicate (GAS), the UK's largest specialist network of investors fighting climate change. 

GAS CEO Cam Ross commented on the round, saying, "Natasha and her team really impressed our specialist Green Angel Syndicate members, right from the very first meeting. The Sphera (Low Carbon Materials) approach to decarbonising such a mainstream component of global building materials is very compelling, hence our substantial investment."

Since the funding round, LCM has continued to scale its carbon negative concrete solution, hired nine new team members and is about to move into a new facility, part made with their carbon negative aggregate. 

3. LCM chosen as one of nine for global Holcim Accelerator

LCM was accepted for the groundbreaking Holcim accelerator alongside nine other innovative companies worldwide. 

The programme included working with partners from Aggregate Industries, Mott Macdonald, Bouygues and Sika. 

It marked an acceleration in LCM's expansion internationally and partnership building with industry incumbents. 

4. Earthshot nomination placed LCM in the top 1000 most impactful global climate change solutions

Low Carbon Materials (LCM) was nominated for the Earthshot Prize's 2022 'Fix our Climate' category, placing them among the 1000 most impactful and inspiring solutions for environmental issues globally. 

OSTO was highlighted as a top solution in this category due to its innovative use of waste as a solution for concrete's carbon footprint.

By transitioning to Low Carbon Materials (LCM) ahead of COP27, the company is taking a new step into international markets, scaling materials solutions to help the built environment reach net zero. 

In the coming year, LCM aims to: 

  1. Complete several exciting demonstrator projects 
  2. Divert more waste from incineration 
  3. Scale-up production 
  4. Develop new materials for the built environment