In pop culture, concrete is often held up as the antithesis of nature and a symbol of man’s environmentally destructive tendencies. This is ironic as concrete is actually one of the most sustainable and environmentally friendly building materials available. Recently, British scientists developed eco-friendly concrete which has a negative carbon footprint and actually absorbs CO2; but even traditional concrete has a number of energy saving properties and has been the construction material of choice for eco-conscious architects and developers for decades. Below are 7 key environmental benefits of concrete as a building material.
Low CO2 emissions
Although producing concrete releases CO2 into the atmosphere, 80% of CO2 emissions produced by a concrete building during it’s lifetime are from electrical energy use.
If you build a structure out of concrete, chances are it will outlive you. One of the most durable building materials available, concrete does not rot, rust or burn and is resistant to pest infestations. A concrete structure has a lifespan which is two or three times that of wood and metal structures.
Concrete is a fantastic insulator and is an ideal choice for energy conscious homes and businesses as it keeps the interior cooler in summer and warmer in winter.
Energy efficient to produce
Concrete weighs up extremely well in terms of the energy required to produce it. This material requires substantially less energy to produce than other common building materials including aluminium, stainless steel, steel, glass, timber and bricks.
Reflectivity or the ‘albedo’ effect
The reflective qualities of concrete mean that it does not absorb as much heat as other materials, resulting in cooler temperatures and reduced instances of the ‘urban heat island’ effect found commonly in modern cities.
Limestone is the most common mineral on earth and it also happens to be the key raw material in concrete fabrication. Industrial waste by-products such as silica fume, slag cement, and fly ash can also be used.
Although it’s still in it’s infancy, concrete recycling is a growing industry and has become a common way to dispose of concrete structures. In the late 20th century, concrete base waste and by products made up almost 17% of landfill worldwide and some 50-60% of that is now recycled. During the recycling process, concrete is crushed up into a gravel for use in road surface construction.
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