Concrete as a building type may not initially seem like a “green” solution, but analysis indicates otherwise. Building with concrete makes sense from several standpoints: 1) it is a green product, 2) it is a good “heat sink”, and 3) it is a durable product. It fits in with sustainable, progressive approaches to building construction.
Concrete is a Green Product
With increasing effects of climate change, we think of both green and sustainable approaches to construction. How does concrete measure up given these approaches?
Concrete should be thought of as a green building material. It is principally made from a combination of cement, water, sand, and gravel. These last 3 ingredients are typically available locally, so both cost of ingredients and transportation costs are not excessive. Cement’s primary constituent is ground limestone, which is also available locally since limestone is one of our most common types of rock.
Concrete can be recycled. Once a building has become obsolete or in the way, all of the concrete can be reused. It can be crushed into different sizes depending on demand. Larger sizes can be used as base for roads, or as rip rap. Smaller sizes can be used to produce more concrete, replacing gravel in the basic mix.
Concrete Absorbs and Stores Heat
Concrete walls can absorb heat and store it for release later. This fact can result in lowered heating and air conditioning expense, particularly in areas which have hot summers and cool nights. Las Vegas is in one of these areas. This concrete pumping company, located in Las Vegas, illustrates the demand for concrete construction in a desert environment. Builders in this area have come to recognize the efficiency of a concrete-based building.
Concrete is More Durable
Recent natural disasters in the U.S. suggest that replacement buildings should be primarily built from concrete. These natural disasters include hurricanes, wildfires, and tornadoes. In each of these cases, concrete-based buildings should result in lower insurance costs.
With hurricanes, both wind and water are the natural destroyers of buildings. Water inside homes causes damage to wood-based floors and walls. With a concrete-based building, much less damage (from both wind and rain) results from the hurricane.
Occurrence of wildfires gives another obvious reason to build with concrete. Since concrete doesn’t burn, homes built largely from concrete stand the ravages of fire much better.
Tornadoes are a natural disaster where buildings built with concrete stand a much better chance of surviving. A concrete floor in a building provides a great deal of weight to anchor the structure to the ground. Walls made of concrete can be tied to the concrete slab with rebar (reinforcing steel) built into the slab when it is poured.
The fact that concrete is more durable than other building materials is borne out when one considers length of life. Concrete does not rust, rot, burn, or suffer from insects. It does not get old for a very long time.
In many cases, concrete is a naturally superior building material, resulting in more efficient, longer-lasting buildings. We should think of it as ECO-concrete.