August 24, 2011

Learning about Sustainable Concrete

What is concrete? For those who are not very familiar with the construction industry, concrete is a composite material made from aggregate, water, cement and other additives. Various kinds of additives can be added into concrete in order to change its properties depending on the required specifications of the project. Concrete is usually reinforced with some kind of material such as fibers, metal caging, or re-bar in order to improve its compressive and tensile strength. Concrete is considered a great construction material due to its properties such as strength, durability, and it’s resistance to deterioration and damage. It can also be a great insulator, buffer sound, and its color can be altered to control heat absorption in order to heat or cool indoor spaces. One of the great advantages of concrete in the construction industry is its low viscosity which allows it to take various ranges of shapes and finishes, depending on the client’s preference.

Concrete serves several applications in the construction industry. It can be used for architectural purposes in order to create an aesthetically pleasing finish, it is used as a concrete overlay or white topping (pavement repair), or it can be used in streets, intersections, and driveways where large carrying loads are required. Concrete can also be used to construct walls where the sound of the outdoor environment is a consideration, such as an office building or public libraries. Although many of us might not notice the many applications of concrete, it is one of the most important materials on earth and the most widely used substance next to water.

Most of us may wonder how can concrete be sustainable. For starters, even though it’s usually considered an expensive construction material, concrete is usually a better construction material than asphalt or wood. Concrete usually has a longer service life than asphalt or wood and it usually requires less maintenance. Old concrete can also be recycled into new aggregate to create new concrete mixtures without losing much strength. On the other hand, wood can also be recycled but it loses a considerable amount of strength during the process. Many of the materials that would end up in our landfills, such as blast furnace slag, recycled polystyrene, and fly ash, can be used instead to make concrete, thus reducing waste in our landfills. Other waste products such as scrap tires and kiln dust are used to fuel the manufacture of cement. Some experts believe concrete can also help reduce global warming by regulating ambient temperatures since dark colored concrete tends to absorb heat while lighter colors absorb less heat.