How Concrete Helps the Planet
One world – it’s all we have so it needs to be used effectively and sustainably. The question is, where does concrete fit on the environmental scale? To answer this question appropriately we need to explore a little history.
In 1824, Joseph Aspdin appeared before King George IV with a patent application for what would eventually become known as Portland Cement. Named after high-quality limestone from the Isle of Portland in England, is one of the great triumphs of modern engineering.
Cement production involves limestone and clay being ground into powder, mixed with water, baked in a furnace, and ground into powder again. The problem is that this process produces five percent of global CO2 emissions - as much as the entire country of Russia. There are two reasons for this. First, when limestone is processed into cement, it emits the greenhouse gas CO2. Second, cement-producing furnaces typically burn fossil fuels to achieve the blistering temperature of 2500 degrees Fahrenheit. Every year, humans lay down three tons of concrete for every person on Earth.
Hold on, didn’t we ask about concrete being environmentally sound? Indeed, recent research suggests that when it comes to concrete, we can do better. In 2014, engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Concrete Sustainability Hub suggests that stronger materials allow engineers to make do with less total cement - potentially achieving the same construction goals while emitting 60 percent less CO2.
Alternatives already exist to steel reinforcement, which rusts and causes concrete to crack, as concrete reinforced with fiberglass is stronger and longer-lasting than steel-reinforced concrete – but there is a cost. Another solution is Hycrete, a liquid solution that is added to concrete to repel water. Concrete treated with Hycrete can be recycled, removes the use of external membranes that make concrete difficult to recycle so less construction debris should end up in landfills, and less energy is needed to make more concrete.
One of the most environmental aspects of concrete, because of its tactile strength, is when concrete waste is recycled and reused in a number of ways:
- Road Building – smaller pieces of concrete are regularly used as gravel for new road construction projects, with fresh concrete or asphalt poured over it;
- Concrete Aggregate - crushed recycled concrete can also be used as the dry aggregate for brand new concrete if it is free of contaminants;
- Riprap – or loose stone used to form a foundation for a breakwater or other structure has become an effective and well-used method for controlling stream bank erosion;
- Landscaping Products - well graded and aesthetically pleasing material is produced for use as a substitute for landscaping stone or aggregate. Some types of reused concrete, also known as “urbanite,” can be used for constructing benches, garden walls, rockeries, raised flower beds; and,
- Gabion Construction or Construction Service – wire gabions, or cages, can be filled with crushed concrete and then stacked together to provide economical retaining walls.
Help the planet by picking the right concrete company
Concrete is an essential part of modern living with the industry striving to be environmentally, as well as economically friendly, as is the contemporary trend. If you need concrete with an environmental conscience, including stamped, exposed, and coloured concrete, contact us, Champion Concrete Cutting (Edmonton) Inc. at 780-469-9333 today for a free estimate on your concrete-related project.