How Sustainable is Concrete?
by TRP Ready Mix on September 11, 2019
A Look at What Makes Concrete a Sustainable Construction Material
As the focus on sustainability continues to grow within the construction industry, the uncertainty of how sustainable certain building materials like concrete truly are is also increasing.
But concrete is one of the most sustainable building materials available. Concrete is durable, resilient, and long-lasting, making it an excellent choice for construction needs today and in the future.
WHAT MAKES A BUILDING MATERIAL SUSTAINABLE?
Building materials are considered sustainable if they can endure or withstand the tests of time, and can meet present needs without compromising the ability for future generations to meet their own needs.
IS CONCRETE SUSTAINABLE?
Concrete is one of the most sustainable building materials available today. Concrete is durable, has a long life cycle, is resilient to both natural and human-made disasters, promotes significant energy conservation, and contributes to the removal of environmental pollutants.
REASONS WHY CONCRETE IS SUSTAINABLE
Here’s a look at what makes concrete a sustainable construction material, along with its many environmental benefits.
Concrete is made from abundant and sustainable resources, such as water, sand, and natural stone.
Limestone—the main component of cement that binds aggregate to form concrete—is one of the most abundant and readily available mineral resources on Earth. Limestone (or calcium carbonate) deposits are formed from the remains of marine life and are found in vast areas above sea level.
Concrete can also use:
- Recycled aggregates;
- Reinforcing steel with high-recycled content; and,
- Industrial waste by-products, such as fly ash, silica fume, and slag cement, as partial cement replacements.
Using these waste by-products helps reduce the consumption of raw materials and keeps waste out of landfills.
The lifespan of concrete is much longer than other building materials. Concrete structures and driveways often have a lifespan that is two to three times that of other materials.
Concrete will often come to the end of its life when no further use can be found for it, instead of the concrete failing due to age. In these cases, a concrete structure may not be demolished but will be stripped back to its concrete core and rebuilt to new specifications.
Concrete is extremely strong and durable. It won’t rot, rust, or burn, and it less susceptible to damage from heavy vehicles.
And since concrete doesn’t need to be replaced or resurfaced as often as other materials, such as asphalt, fewer raw materials are used throughout the concrete’s service life.
Concrete’s ability to absorb and retain heat makes homes and buildings more energy-efficient. And impervious concrete stops thermal transfer.
So homes built with concrete walls, floors, roofs, and foundations will retain heat in winter. And in the summer, the concrete will absorb exterior heat, keeping the interior cooler.
With concrete homes, homeowners can use less energy for heating and cooling throughout the year, saving plenty on energy bills, while also placing less of a demand on energy sources.
Concrete helps reduce energy consumption by reflecting light. Concrete’s light colour helps reflect radiation from sunlight, reducing the heat island effect in urban areas along with the demands of air conditioning in the summer.
Dark building materials, such as asphalt pavements and roofing, absorb sunlight radiation and release its heat, contributing to the urban heat island effect and placing more of a demand on air conditioning in the summer.
Concrete also helps reflect light at night, reducing the need for artificial lighting.
Concrete construction creates minimal waste since concrete suppliers create ready mixed concrete in quantities specific to a project’s size. And if there happens to be any leftover concrete, it is usually returned to the concrete plant and formed into blocks for various uses such as preventing hillside soil erosion.
Concrete can also be recycled at the end of its service life, reducing the amount of waste that ends up in landfills.
Recycled concrete is often crushed and used as backfill, road base, and aggregate in new concrete mixes. Recycled concrete blocks can be used as riprap along waterways to prevent soil erosion and along shorelines to control waves.
Concrete is water resilient, which helps to reduce the impact of flooding on a structure. Concrete can also act as a water barrier, keeping water out of buildings.
When paved surfaces block stormwater from filtering into the soil underneath, it can cause an imbalance in the natural ecosystem which can lead to soil erosion, water table depletion, flash floods, and pollution in nearby waterways.
But permeable concrete can prevent soil erosion and flooding, including flash floods, due to its porous structure. Instead of pooling water that washes away on its surface, permeable concrete allows stormwater to pass through.
When used for paving parking lots, driveways, sidewalks, and other surfaces, permeable concrete also helps retain stormwater, replenish water tables, and prevent contaminants from entering local waterways.
If you’re looking for a sustainable building material for your next construction project, consider ready mixed concrete. From its raw materials to its finished products, concrete is a sustainable building material that will stand the tests of time.