Sand is the most-consumed natural resource on the planet besides water. People use some 50 billion tonnes of “aggregate” – the industry term for sand and gravel, which tend to be found together – every year.

The overwhelming bulk of the sand we harvest goes to make concrete, and for that purpose, desert sand grains are the wrong shape. Eroded by wind rather than water, they are too smooth and rounded… The sand we need is the more angular stuff found in the beds, banks, and floodplains of rivers. The demand is so intense that around the world, riverbeds and beaches are being stripped bare, and farmlands and forests torn up to get at the precious grains.

BBC Future, “Why the world is running out of sand”


Soaring Demand

Rapid urbanization has sent global demand for concrete soaring. In Saudi Arabia alone, more than a trillion dollars in new construction is in development, and the kingdom already imports more than 30 million tons of sand per year, which raises concerns about supply chain vulnerabilities.

Marine Sand Shipping

Climate Impact

Sand shipped by sea to Saudi Arabia from Asia is not only costly but the marine carriers are a major source CO2. On average, a ton of imported sand to Saudi Arabia produces 1.5 tons of CO2 emissions due to the diesel-burning power plants in dry bulk cargo ships.

Sand Mining

Environmental Degradation

The “sand rush” globally is leading to the degradation of important ecosystems in Asia, such as the Mekong Delta, where rivers, beaches, and lake beds are ruthlessly exploited for their increasingly valuable concrete-ready sands.

The ClimateCrete Solution

At Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah University for Science and Technology (KAUST), scientists have developed a technology that can make nearly any type of sand suitable for concrete, and KAUST spin out ClimateCrete aims to commercialize the groundbreaking technology.

ClimateCrete is the fruit of a long-term collaboration at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) between a Chemical Engineer Dr. Jorge Gascon and a world-famous architect William McDonough, FAIA, INT. FRIBA, both deeply committed to addressing resource depletion and global warming.

William McDonough


January 25, 2024

Inside the Crime Rings Trafficking Sand

December 05, 2023

ClimateCrete Inc. announces close of $3.3 million series A funding round led by Capital K