“Green” Concrete: Building for Sustainability

Our world is becoming a more environmentally conscious place, with more and more folks hopping aboard the “green” bandwagon of sustainability. So how does concrete figure into the environmental equation? It turns out that slate grey might be the new shade of “green” for many who are interested in preserving our natural resources. Check out these five reasons why concrete might be an environmentally friendly choice over other types of building materials.

Availability

Concrete is often made from limestone, which is one of the most abundant resources on the planet. However, scientists in recent years have also experimented with creating concrete out of waste products like fly ash and silica fume. This successful endeavor has led to some streets and parking lots using waste products for their new construction. This eliminates excess waste in our landfills and protects other resources that might go into building structures otherwise.

Long Lasting

Most homeowners with concrete foundations, driveways and patios know that concrete is made to last. While repairs may be needed periodically, few concrete structures need to be destroyed and rebuilt for decades. This means that materials for rebuilding will not be necessary, so natural resources are not quickly depleted. Since replacement is not generally required, there is also less material to end up in landfills after demolition. When concrete is removed, it can usually be recycled, which we will talk about more later in this article.

Thermal and Light Properties

Concrete also has a wonderful way of absorbing heat and reflecting light. When heat is retained within the concrete surface in the winter, energy bills to heat the home are reduced. By the same token, concrete can absorb the heat of the summer months, leaving houses cooler with less air conditioning needed. Homeowners can enjoy comfortable temperatures year round without higher energy bills. This material also has the ability to reflect light, meaning that less light and energy needs to be used at night.

Water Retention

While most concrete serves as a barrier to water runoff, there is an exception that if much friendlier to the environment. Pervious concrete is a material that allows water to pass through it freely. This is a huge benefit when it is used on driveways, sidewalks and streets, because water runoff from storms can then be redirected to a city’s water supply. It also prevents polluted water from getting into and overwhelming rivers and lakes.

Recycling

Once concrete has finally finished out its life cycle, it does not need to go into landfills. Instead, the material can be reused by crushing it into aggregate. These small pieces can then be worked into roadways or even incorporated into new sidewalks. There are few building materials that can be used as long or recycled as easily as concrete can.

While those drab, grey slabs may not look environmentally friendly on the surface; there are plenty of “green” reasons to choose concrete for your next home improvement project. With sustainability in mind, concrete is an excellent choice for homeowners who want to reduce their carbon footprint.

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