Concrete and Sustainability

Concrete is one of the most versatile, durable and cost efficient building materials known to man. It is also environmentally sustainable, with green credentials that outperform both timber and steel.

Concrete has a massive contribution to make to the construction industry and to the reduction in CO2. Not so much through improvement in manufacturing techniques (in 2002 concrete was only responsible for 2.6% of the UK CO2 emissions) but through the way in which concretes can absorb heat which can then be used to control the ventilation within a building. About 90% of the environmental impact from the building is from heating, cooling and lighting and only 10% from the embodied energy used to produce the fabric of the building (taken over a 60 year cycle). The UK is mainly self sufficient in concrete and the materials needed for its manufacture. One requirement of Sustainability is that goods should be consumed as near to its production as possible, reducing the need for transport. This is true of ready mixed concrete due to the fact that it cannot be transported over long distances.

Sustainable development within the concrete industry has raised 2 main issues that must be addressed. 1) natural resources are being used and discarded at a rate that the UK cannot sustain; 2) emissions caused by the consumption of these resources are leading to global warning.

The British Concrete Industry is continuously investing in developing new processes that will reduce the impact the production of concrete has on the environment. Companies within manufacturing and construction are being encouraged to either recycle waste products or to use waste products from other industries. Concrete block manufacturers are already using by-products from power stations as a replacement for cement and in road construction projects they are using a high percentage of concrete waste for use within the base course. Concrete is a highly recyclable product and by using as much of this waste as possible in new construction we can have a massive affect on the environmental impact of concrete industry.