How sustainable is concrete?
One of our previous blog post showed that the world is running low on sand. And with the global climate crises, sustainability in building seems more important than ever! In this post you can read about the sustainability of concrete materials.
Green building is the concept of constructing homes and buildings we need today without depleting resources for future generations. In the new world of sustainable building, information about the strength, durability, and indestructible nature of concrete as a resourceful building material is emerging. Amid the teardown-and-replace mentality still pervasive in the world today, concrete stands out defiantly. Try to replace concrete with an alternative building material, and you’ll be hard pressed to find a substitute possessing the same thermal qualities, design flexibility, and permanence.
Fortunately, a paradigm shift is taking place in attitudes about resource conservation and sustainability. More builders and homeowners are now embracing green building, and concrete is emerging as a champion rather than a rebel. Read on to find out why, and learn how you can use concrete to build environmentally responsible homes without compromising beauty, comfort, or economy.
WHAT MAKES CONCRETE A SUSTAINABLE BUILDING MATERIAL?
Concrete is a friend of the environment in all stages of its life span, from raw material production to demolition, making it a natural choice for sustainable home construction. Here are some of the reasons why, according to the Portland Cement Association and the Environmental Council of Concrete Organizations:
The predominant raw material for the cement in concrete is limestone, the most abundant mineral on earth. Concrete can also be made with
fly ash, slag cement, and silica fume, all waste byproducts from power plants, steel mills, and other manufacturing facilities.
Concrete builds durable, long-lasting structures that will not rust, rot, or burn. Life spans for concrete building products can be double or triple those of other common building materials.
Homes built with concrete walls, foundations, and floors are highly energy efficient because they take advantage of concretes inherent thermal mass or ability to absorb and retain heat. This means homeowners can significantly cut their heating and cooling bills and install smaller-capacity HVAC equipment.
Concrete minimizes the effects that produce urban heat islands. Light-colored concrete pavements and roofs absorb less heat and reflect more solar radiation than dark-colored materials, such as asphalt, reducing air conditioning demands in the summer.
Ability to retain stormwater.
Paved surfaces tend to be impervious and can block natural water infiltration into the soil. This creates an imbalance in the natural ecosystem and leads to problems such as erosion, flash floods, water table depletion, and pollution. Pervious concrete is a special type of structural concrete with a sponge-like network of voids that water passes through readily. When used for driveways, sidewalks, parking lots, and other pavements, pervious concrete can help to retain stormwater runoff and replenish local water supplies.
Concrete can be produced in the quantities needed for each project, reducing waste. After a concrete structure has served its original purpose, the concrete can be crushed and recycled into aggregate for use in new concrete pavements or as backfill or road base.
By Anne Balogh, ConcreteNetwork.com Columnist
Updated August 31, 2020