As contractors and government agencies push for increased support of eco-friendly construction and green building initiatives, U.S. Concrete and The Environmental Council of Concrete Organizations assert their ongoing commitment to the environmentally-responsible use of sustainable concrete in building cost-effective and healthy places to live and work.
Concrete for Sustainable Construction
Concrete continues to be recognized for its environmental and economic benefits throughout the life cycle from raw material extraction and production, to construction, maintenance, demolition, and disposal. What makes concrete sustainable? We’re glad you asked!
Concrete’s Reduced Carbon Footprint
Concrete’s use of recycled materials reduces greenhouse gasses, such as CO2 emissions, and consumption of raw material.
Buildings made of concrete are long-lasting structures that will not rust, rot, or burn; and will stand up against the elements and natural disasters such as hurricanes, fires, earthquakes, and even tsunamis. The lifespan of concrete building products doubles or triples that of other common building materials, and because there is rarely a need for reconstruction, concrete conserves resources.
Concrete’s Energy Efficiency
Homes and businesses built with concrete have a unique energy-saving advantage because of their inherent thermal mass, which absorbs and retains heat. Insulated concrete walls are more energy-efficient than wood construction, meaning that home or building owners are able to install smaller capacity HVAC equipment while still significantly reducing their heating and cooling bills.
Concrete roofing and pavement in urban areas reflects more light, minimizes the effects that produce “urban heat islands,” and may result in significant energy savings and safer, healthier communities. Since light-colored concrete pavements and roofs absorb less heat, reflect more solar radiation than dark-colored materials such as asphalt, they can also reduce air conditioning demands in the summer.
Concrete’s Use of Natural Resources
Limestone, the most abundant mineral on earth, is the primary raw material used in concrete. It can also be made with fly ash, slag cement, and silica fume, which are waste byproducts from power plants, steel mills, and other manufacturing facilities.
Concrete’s Water Retainability
Paved surfaces can be impervious and block natural water infiltration into the soil. This creates an imbalance in the natural ecosystem, leading to erosion, flooding, water table depletion, and pollution. Concrete, on the other hand, can be pervious. With a sponge-like network of voids that allow water to pass through readily, pervious concrete allows rainwater to flow through the pavement into the soil, which helps retain stormwater runoff and replenishes local water supplies.
Concrete’s Minimal Waste
Since concrete can be produced in quantities specific to each project, there is a minimal amount of waste.
After serving its original purpose, a concrete structure can be demolished and reused. To reuse concrete, it is crushed into aggregate for new concrete builds, backfill, or road base.
Sustainable Concrete Doesn’t Have to be Dull
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