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How Green is Concrete?

Concrete, construction

Concrete is used just about everywhere in construction. It was even used in the Roman Empire but a few hundred years later, the formula was lost to time only to be rediscovered later. The composition of concrete hasn’t changed much, but how it’s produced has, as machinery and a better understanding have both permitted more efficient production methods.

But how green is concrete today? Is it a green technology or just a building material that’s commonly used for driveways, floors, buildings, dams, roads, and more? Let’s look under the surface to decide.

What is Concrete?

Concrete is made primarily from cement as its building block, along with aggregate, gravel, stones, and sand.  Adding H2O creates hydration through a chemical reaction. When the material is ready to mix and water is added, it quickly hardens, making it a pourable and adaptable building material.

Over five billion tons of concrete are produced annually, possibly more. Concrete suppliers like Richfield Concrete pride themselves on offering the highest quality to the building trade and major construction sites.  Structures built from concrete stand the test of time.

How Green is Concrete?

Concrete materials originate from the earth. Rock, stone, sand, and aggregate are quarried or otherwise obtained. Essentially, with the materials being from the planet rather than man-made, this means they are environmentally friendly at their core.

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The concrete mix is supplied in precise quantities based on what’s needed by the builder. That’s the same whether it’s an environmentally friendly building or not. There’s little waste involved when using the mix because only what’s needed is mixed with water to use soon after. Because it’s known what a bag of concrete mix will produce, it’s possible to order precisely based on the dimensions of a garage floor, driveway, or other use.

Furthermore, the water is not used in a wasteful manner because it’s only added to the concrete mix ahead of pouring it. An excess amount of water doesn’t improve the concrete and increases the need for water access at a worksite. Therefore, it’s only used as required.

Seeing Things in their Proper Perspective

When it comes to green construction, and green technology for that matter, it’s important to see matters in their proper perspective. What do we mean by this? If we take solar energy as a good example, this is believed to be a green energy source and technology. And it is. However, the solar panels need to be produced using raw materials and machinery with energy being expended to produce them. The batteries that get connected to solar controllers and in turn, the solar panels, also must be manufactured. So, while solar energy is green tech, it relies on new manufacturing and the use of plastics, mined metal, energy sources, and so forth.

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It’s All a Trade-off

It’s a great idea to use green technology wherever possible to make projects more sustainable and less impactful on the planet. A balance must be found though between being eco-friendly and practical. Mud huts for office buildings aren’t practical! Few small-scale eco-friendly solutions work well on a larger scale. However, it’s also true that green tech like solar and even using environmentally friendly processes for concrete can promote efficiency and limit waste. These are worthwhile.

It’s all a trade-off. The trick with being greener is to look for ways to always improve projects to make them more environmentally friendly rather than expecting perfection. The former is possible, the latter is just a theoretical ideal.