Concrete is used in nearly every structure we build today, including buildings, bridges, homes and infrastructure. With greater emphasis placed on sustainability and resilience in recent years, structural engineers are faced with the challenge of meeting traditional design criteria in addition to evolving criteria that support sustainable construction.
The benefits of energy savings, resilience, and associated greenhouse gas emission reductions from constructing and operating buildings and infrastructure with concrete exceedingly offset the emissions from cement manufacturing over the life of a structure.
Here are many reasons why concrete is the most sustainable building material:
- Long-Life – Concrete structures are long-lived and outperform structures made from other building materials, such as pavements that have an average service life of 30-50 years.
- Lower life-cycle cost – Concrete is a locally available product and consumes minimum amount of materials, energy and other resources for construction, and requires little to no maintenance throughout its service life.
- Safety and reliability – Concrete does not rust, rot or burn. Concrete pavements are less susceptible to damage from heavy vehicles, easier to see at night, ensures shorter vehicle stopping distances in bad weather and requires fewer work zone interruptions to the public over the life of the pavement.
- Resilience – Concrete is resistant to natural and man-made disasters. Because of its durability, concrete structures will not require additional carbon release to reproduce additional materials used for repair.
- Fewer traffic disruptions – Concrete pavements do not require lengthy lane closures, with roads able to reopen within as little as six hours. This reduces time-in-traffic auto emissions.
Performance-based specifications for concrete can substantially help meet the challenge of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and embodied carbon in the production of cement and concrete. Prescriptive requirements such as minimum cement content or maximum water to cement ratio are among many common specification requirements that can increase the environmental footprint of concrete. Concrete performance can be improved while lowering its environmental footprint through implementing performance-based specifications as well as the utilization of ASTM C595 blended hydraulic cement technology.