For decades now, environmentalism has been the hot topic in the media, what with the rapid rise of global warming and the undeniable effects that climate change has on our fragile world. Governments, researches, prominent individuals and groups, as well as powerful organizations have come together over the years to invest in sustainability in numerous industries, in an attempt to make the residential and commercial realms a bit greener.
Some of these industries include architecture and design, as well as construction. Particularly, the modern age has incentivized the ideation of innovative construction methods and materials, one of them being sustainable concrete. Let’s take a look at how modern concrete mixes can be sustainable, and how they can help the world become a greener place.
Increasing resource efficiency
Concrete is predominantly made from limestone, which is the most abundant mineral on the planet. Even though most of the world’s concrete is still made strictly out of limestone, forward-looking companies are reinventing their approach to concrete manufacturing and using other materials to achieve the same level of quality, durability, and longevity. Alternative materials also aim to reduce manufacturing costs and create a more sustainable production environment.
Some of these materials include slag cement, silica fume, fly ash, as well as various waste byproducts sourced from steel mills, power plants, and numerous other manufacturing facilities. This kind of production versatility allows concrete manufacturers to keep creating high-quality concrete while minimizing the environmental impact across the board.
Emphasizing durability and lifespan
When we’re talking about the lifespan of a construction material, as well as its overall durability, concrete is the best solution on the modern market. Quite simply, building a commercial or residential property with a concrete base, foundation, and framework means that you are building a structure that will stand the test of time. Given the fact that concrete won’t rust, rot, or burn, there is no denying that it’s one of the best investments for contractors and investors alike.
Other common building materials such as wood or steel fail to stand up to par with the inherent longevity and durability of concrete, not to mention its thermal benefits for your home. In fact, concrete structures typically enjoy a lifespan that is two and even three times longer than that of other popular materials. This makes concrete a stable one-off investment with minimal risk and a high ROI potential.
Using concrete’s thermal mass for energy efficiency
Whether you’re investing in concrete to build a home of a commercial property, it’s important to note how the material can help you minimize energy expenditure throughout the year and keep your heating and cooling bills relatively low. This is especially important for homeowners who want to fight the summer heats effectively while staying energy efficient.
Homes and commercial buildings built on a modern concrete foundation, including floors and walls, have a much higher passive insulation effect than those built with other traditional materials. The concrete’s thermal mass absorbs and retains heat when the interior is heated during the winter months, preventing the heat from dissipating. Likewise, it will prevent the heat from penetrating into the interior during the sizzling summer months, allowing the interior to stay cool. Homes and offices build on concrete are therefore able to install much smaller HVAC units, and spend less on energy as a result.
Allowing rainwater to replenish local supplies
Another eco-friendly benefit of concrete many people are not aware of is the material’s ability to retain rainwater and let it seep into the soil, establishing a balance and preventing numerous problems associated with poor soil moisture. Asphalt, for example, prevents water from infiltrating the soil beneath and thus creates an unstable environment that leads to numerous environmental problems such as erosion, heavy pollution, flash floods, and the depletion of water table.
This is why manufacturers are increasingly using pervious concrete, an environmentally-friendly paving material that has the ability to replenish local watershed systems and retain rainwater without sacrificing any of the aforementioned benefits of the material. As more and more cities and countries switch to pervious concrete, the need for stormwater management systems will diminish, cutting production costs and CO2 emissions in the process.
Minimizing waste production
And finally, keep in mind that concrete is a material that produces minimal amounts of waste. Given the fact that manufacturers and contractors can calculate the exact amount of concrete needed for every construction project – utilizing innovative technology such as BIM, for example – there is no need to over-produce. When the time comes to demolish a building or concrete structure, the material is crushed down and recycled to be used as aggregate in new construction projects.
Leaders from every industry in the world are coming up with new ideas on how to make our “pale blue dot” a little greener than before, all in the hopes of restoring the Earth that once was. The construction industry, with its concrete innovations, is just another cog in the eco-friendly machinery that will make this dream a reality.