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Increasing material efficiencies of buildings to address the global sand crisis


There is a rapidly unfolding sand supply crisis in meeting growing material needs for infrastructure. We find a ~45% increase in global building sand use from 2020 to 2060 under a middle-of-the-road baseline scenario, with a 300% increase across low-and-lower-middle-income regions and a slight decrease in higher-income regions. Half of this demand may be avoidable using several material efficiency strategies in concert. International cooperation is essential for addressing vulnerabilities and inequalities.

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Fig. 1: Building sand use and reduction scenarios in world regions.
Fig. 2: Building sand use in 2060 under the baseline and mitigation scenarios.

Data availability

This research relies entirely on publicly available data as referenced. We have also deposited them in the Zenodo repository21 in a form that can be easily used with our model code. Source data are provided with this paper.

Code availability

The python code of the building sand model is publicly available from the Zenodo repository21.


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X.Z. acknowledges the support of the China Scholarship Council (grant no. 201806050096).

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Authors and Affiliations



X.Z. and P.B. designed the research. X.Z. and S.D. developed the model and collected the data. X.Z. performed the analysis. X.Z. and P.B. drafted the manuscript. A.T. and S.D. contributed to reviewing and editing.

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Correspondence to Xiaoyang Zhong.

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Nature Sustainability thanks Zhi Cao and Chris Hackney for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Supplementary methods, discussion, Figs. 1–5, Tables 1–6 and references.

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Zhong, X., Deetman, S., Tukker, A. et al. Increasing material efficiencies of buildings to address the global sand crisis. Nat Sustain 5, 389–392 (2022).

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