Concrete plays a vital part in our daily lives. It shapes the built environment around us, from schools, hospitals and housing to roads, bridges, tunnels, runways, dams and sewerage systems. Few people realize that concrete is in fact the most used man-made material in the world, with three tons used annually for each man, woman and child. Twice as much concrete is used around the world than the total of all other building materials, including wood, steel, plastic and aluminium. Its superior properties on strength, durability, thermal mass and affordability make it the material of choice for most purposes.
The production of concrete, notably its most important ingredient, cement, poses several sustainability issues that need to be managed: Cement production emits CO2 and other air emissions, and the quarrying of raw materials produces local impacts such as noise and dust. Also, water use needs to be carefully looked at in locations where water is scarce. The industry is well aware of these impacts and addresses them both collectively, via the CSI or regional and national trade organizations, and individually as producers within their sphere of influence.
Given the ubiquitous use of the material, it is also important to talk about the sustainability of the structures that are built with concrete. In particular, concrete is a key component to build durable and energy-efficient buildings. Concrete is a versatile material with important properties relevant for sustainable construction.
The CSI is addressing the following issues regarding sustainability with concrete:
- Sustainable with concrete: In a survey, the WBCSD looked at the decision-making process in sustainable construction
- Concrete recycling: It reduces the use of primary natural resources and keeps waste from going to landfill
- Concrete responsible sourcing: The certification system maanged by the Concrete Sustainability Council (CSC)
- Environmental Product Declaration (EPD): The CSI tool