Cement used in concrete is predominantly made from limestone, which just happens to be the most abundant mineral on earth. Fly ash, slag cement and silica fume which are also used to make concrete are naturally occurring by-products from steel mills, power plants and various other manufacturing facilities. Concrete is, therefore, a sustainable building choice that makes use of waste, has a life beyond its original construction and through developments such as pervious concrete also help reduce the effect of development on water tables.
Why sustainability matters
Did you know that cement production accounts for 3-5% of the world’s CO2 greenhouse gas emissions? Whilst this may seem on the high side as CO2 accounts for nearly 84% of global greenhouse gases, concrete is still a good choice of construction material from an environmental viewpoint. The industry has also continued to work hard on reducing its carbon footprint by developing concrete with a much lower CO2 impact such as low-carbon concrete incorporating varying mixes, additives and heating temperatures.
So with that said, enhanced environmental production techniques improving to reduce global greenhouse gases, concrete itself is actually incredibly sustainable both in its lifespan when compared to timber and metal, in its recyclability at the end of life and less waste. In this post, we ask Heaton Manufacturing Ltd why you should consider concrete when it comes to your building.
What makes concrete sustainable?
Quite simply – its strength and long service life. Concrete, when reinforced and used in building construction offers lower maintenance costs and a higher thermal heat capacity than lighter building materials. This enables a reduction in the amount of energy used for heating and cooling the property throughout its life. Our world offers us such an abundance of limestone deposits above sea level that we may never need to ocean mine. However, this is not the only reason you could consider it a sustainable choice.
- Concrete, unlike many other building materials will not rust, burn or rot. With a lifespan of double or triple of wood and metal, using concrete may mean less rebuilding. With the addition of suitable admixtures and choosing high-quality steel reinforcement products, the lifespan of any build can be extended even further.
- You produce exactly the amount of product that you need, meaning less waste than metal or timber construction. Any small excesses can be used to create concrete blocks that can be used elsewhere.
- Even at the end of its long life, concrete can be crushed and recycled into aggregate which is used in backfills, road bases, concrete pavements and foundations. Concrete demolition waste is the ideal reuse of waste when a structure comes to the end of its life.
- Concrete’s design versatility is hard to beat so it is a long-lasting sustainable build material for bridges, homes, gardens, pools, interior and exterior flooring and even kitchen worktops and decorative features. Concrete is not inherently strong, however, combined with steel reinforcement products such as those offered by industry specialists you gain a combined unbeatable strength unmatched by other build materials.
- Homes with concrete floors, walls and foundations are thermally energy efficient. Concrete has an inherent thermal ability. Whether in colder or warmer climates the thermal mass property allows a reduction in both heating and cooling bills; a positive way to reduce a building’s carbon footprint. Lightly coloured concrete will absorb less heat than dark-coloured so you can adjust your build colour to the climate of your build.
- Using pervious concrete offers a sponge-like network of voids that water passes through, reducing the damage to the earth’s natural ecosystem caused by paved surfaces. Choosing pervious concrete can help to replenish local water supplies and retain storm water runoff, making it sustainable in maintaining water quality.
While it has been utilised for many years as a building material, Concrete certainly has secured its place as a sustainable building material for the future too.