What’s Going On Here?
Concrete – which has been called the most destructive material on Earth – is getting a green makeover…
What Does This Mean?
Concrete companies around the world are working to create a lower emission material that will be less harmful to the planet. Pioneering experiments include injecting carbon dioxide into the concrete to lock it in and keep the greenhouse gas out of the atmosphere.
A company based in California uses carbon dioxide collected from the exhaust stack of a power plant to produce a synthetic limestone that functions as a substitute for the sand—an increasingly scarce resource, whose mining is destroying many of the world’s beaches and rivers—and gravel usually used in concrete.
While the new concrete created by Swiss company LafargeHolcim is creating mixes that reduces embodied carbon by 50%, and only costs around 5% more than regular concrete.
Why Should We Care?
Concrete is the most widely used construction material on the planet. But while it has given us countless bridges, buildings and dams and is the foundation of modern development, it is also responsible for about 8 percent of global carbon emissions. If concrete were a country, it would rank third in emissions behind China and the United States.
Concrete is so damaging that architects and builders have started using alternative materials like bamboo, wood, rammed earth and timbercrete that are far more eco-friendly.
So is this “sustainable” concrete the answer?
While this new concrete is undoubtedly better for the planet, many developers will only be looking at profit and may still go for the cheaper, more destructive option.
And even with a reduced carbon impact, there is no doubt that the construction of new buildings—whatever material is used—is generally worse than working to improve existing buildings, rather than demolishing them, which has its own set of environmental issues.
Innovation in concrete is a “rock-solid” step to reduce new construction emissions. Pair it with extending the lifetime of the existing built environment, rather than demolition, and we have the foundations of sustainable construction.
Here are our solid recommendations:
- Check out sustainability groups like UKGBC whose mission is to “radically improve the sustainability of the built environment, by transforming the way it is planned, designed, constructed, maintained and operated”.
- Architect Magazine made a list of the top sustainability firms in the world that is worth looking at.
- Website Construction Index draws attention to the worst construction firms so you don’t have to the leg work – but you can still use your voice and power to lobby the bad guys!