5 tips on how to make concrete more sustainable | Converge.io

May 7, 2023

As global awareness of environmental issues grows, the construction industry has increasingly looked towards sustainable practices, including the use of sustainable concrete. Concrete is a widely used construction material, but it also contributes significantly to greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, it's essential to consider how to make concrete construction more environmentally friendly. By adopting sustainable techniques, we can reduce concrete's carbon footprint and create greener, more eco-conscious structures.

The demand for sustainable materials and techniques is on the rise, and the concrete industry is no exception. With the right information and practices, it is possible to create sustainable concrete. In this article, we will explore some tips on how to make concreting and concrete more sustainable. 

Read more: Learn about the environmental impact of concrete material and read our summary of PAS 2080

Tips on how to make concrete more sustainable

We gathered our best tips on how to make concrete and concrete construction more sustainable. Keep reading to learn more about what you can do to have your construction company minimise its carbon footprint. 

1. Use alternative cementitious materials 

Reduce the environmental impact of concrete by incorporating alternative cementitious materials, such as fly ash, slag cement, or silica fume. These materials can partially replace Portland cement, which has a high carbon footprint. Read more about more sustainable concrete mixtures in our article.

2. Adopt precast concrete methods

With the increasing demand for sustainable solutions, the question "is precast concrete sustainable?" is frequently asked. Precast concrete is a sustainable alternative to traditional cast-in-place construction. 

It involves producing concrete elements in a controlled environment before transporting and assembling them at the construction site. This method offers several benefits:

  1. Reduced material waste: Precast concrete production is more precise, reducing the amount of material waste generated.
  2. Faster construction: Precast concrete elements can be produced concurrently with site preparation, speeding up the overall construction process.
  3. Improved quality: Precast concrete is manufactured under controlled conditions, ensuring higher quality and durability.

3. Implement energy-efficient production methods

Reducing energy consumption during concrete production can significantly lower the concrete carbon footprint. Adopting energy-efficient practices includes:

  1. Optimising kiln operations: Implementing modern kiln technologies and using alternative fuels can reduce energy consumption and emissions.
  2. Increasing plant efficiency: Regular maintenance, equipment upgrades, and employee training can improve overall plant performance and reduce energy use.

4. Recycle and reuse concrete

Recycling concrete reduces the need for new raw materials, decreases waste, and lowers the overall environmental impact. Consider the following tips for recycling and reusing concrete:

  1. Crushed concrete aggregate: Crushed concrete can be used as an aggregate in new concrete mixes or as a base for roads and other construction applications.
  2. Deconstructed concrete: Careful deconstruction of concrete structures can yield reusable precast elements, which can be incorporated into new projects.

5. Design for sustainability

Design structures with sustainability in mind, considering factors such as the building's lifespan, energy efficiency, and adaptability for future use.

  1. Longevity: Design structures to last longer, reducing the need for frequent reconstruction and material consumption.
  2. Energy efficiency: Incorporate passive design principles to minimise energy consumption and reduce operational carbon emissions.
  3. Adaptability: Design buildings that can be easily repurposed or modified, reducing the need for demolition and new construction.

Read more: We explain what green concrete is and shed light on technology that makes concreting more sustainable. 

Construction site with crushed concrete

Things to keep in mind

In conclusion, sustainable concrete can be achieved through a combination of alternative materials, precast methods, energy-efficient production, recycling, and thoughtful design. By implementing these techniques, the concrete construction industry can significantly reduce its environmental impact and contribute to a greener future. 

Frequently asked questions

How does concrete contribute to greenhouse gas emissions?

Concrete production is responsible for approximately 8% of global CO2 emissions, primarily due to the energy-intensive process of producing Portland cement. This process involves heating limestone and clay at high temperatures, which releases large amounts of CO2.

Can recycled concrete maintain the same performance and durability as new concrete?

Yes, when properly processed and used in appropriate applications, recycled concrete can maintain similar performance and durability as new concrete. Engineers carefully design concrete mixes using recycled materials. This is to ensure that the structural and durability requirements are met.

Are there any drawbacks to using alternative cementitious materials in concrete?

While alternative cementitious materials can reduce the carbon footprint of concrete, they can also affect its properties. For instance, setting time, strength development, and durability. Proper mix design and testing are crucial to ensuring that the desired performance is achieved.

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