Concrete: A Highly Sustainable Building Material
With the term ‘concrete jungle’ having become to popular and widely used, it is easy to overlook that this building material has been around for so long for very good reasons. Also, that it has some excellent attributes which make it very important in today’s context.
Yes, it is easy to produce and use, but the fact is that concrete is an eminently environmentally friendly building material during the entire span of its life cycle, beginning from its production as a raw material right until it is demolished. This renders it the perfect and obvious building option for the construction of sustainable homes.
The cement utilized in concrete is sourced from limestone, which is an abundantly available mineral that will literally never deplete. However, one can also manufacture concrete from materials such as slag cement and fly ash, both of which are generated by industries like steel mills and power plants as waste byproducts. From the point of recycling of existing resources, concrete is therefore a real boon to the planet.
Concrete is also highly durable, and is used in erecting buildings which are not subject to rust, do not burn or otherwise degrade. In fact, buildings built with concrete have twice or even thrice the life- span of buildings erected with many other construction material. The life-spans for concrete building products can be double or triple those of other common building materials.
What is equally important from a sustainability perspective is that the use of concrete in forming the foundation, floors and walls of a building renders it extremely energy-efficient. One of the benefits of this building material is its ability to absorb and retain heat. In other words, people who live in homes built of concrete save significantly on both cooling and heating bills. In a concrete building, one can install air conditioners of lower capacity, resulting in significant electricity savings.
Also, concrete reduces the incidence of processes that result in urban heat islands. When concrete, which is inherently light in colour, is used to build pavements and roofs, the end result is that less heat is absorbed and more incoming solar radiation is deflected.
Finally, concrete as a building material results in the least waste of raw building materials, as it can be manufactured and used in the actual quantities required to build a building or other project. Once a building or structure built of concrete has completed its life-cycle or fulfilled the purpose for which it was erected, the concrete can be recycled into aggregate which can then be used to lay concrete pavements or provide an underlying base for roads.