While our industry has made many advances over the past five decades, we now see the birth of a movement that will affect the perception and use of concrete in the future. Rising energy costs, limited resources, health concerns, and dramatic weather have led to a growing awareness of the impact humankind has on this planet. The concrete industry has a responsibility to make a positive difference for sustainable development.
The design community has a huge task—understanding and integrating the impacts of the built environment on the natural environment. It must comparatively evaluate the manufacturing process, shipping, construction, maintenance, and deconstruction for all materials that go into a project, and they are looking to us, the concrete experts, for answers.
Concrete's greenest benefits are derived from its strength, durability, and recyclability. Architects routinely note durability as a reason for using concrete. It is truly sustainable: does not burn, rot, rust, warp, off-gas, or provide food to mold and insects. Today's concrete solutions improve the air and water quality on building sites, save energy over traditional building methods, and reduce urban heat islands. When reaching the end of its original life, concrete can be recycled for use in roads, utilities, and new building construction.
But sustainable development is not simply about stacking a bunch of green products onto a foundation. Research clearly shows that the impact of materials alone is a small fraction, when considering the life span of the structure. It is design of the building and considerate integration of the materials that makes large improvement possible.
Read more highlights from 50 Years of Concrete Construction Progress.