Concrete is the most ubiquitous building material and is a major contributor to our built environment’s greenhouse gas emissions. As part of a global movement to reduce climate change, it is important for all stakeholders in the concrete industry to understand and incorporate innovative solutions into their designs, specifications and construction practices.
Fortunately, innovations have been developing quickly. “Self-healing bio-concrete,” for example, combines traditional concrete with a type of bacteria that refills cracks as they form and closes them – making it more durable and significantly reducing maintenance costs. It also reduces the need for de-icing salts and saves on the transportation of these materials, which contributes to environmental harm,” says FPInnovations’ Concrete Solutions expert, Costas Georgopoulos.
In addition to self-healing concrete, there are a variety of other technologies that can be used to make existing or new concrete more sustainable. One such solution is cellulose fibres, which can be used to replace steel reinforcing bars in concrete mixes. This makes the concrete more resilient and improves its ability to resist damage caused by freeze-thaw cycles, resulting in 50 percent less surface spalling.
Another opportunity is to produce concrete with lower embodied carbon, which involves reducing the total amount of energy and raw materials used in a particular mix and can be measured using the industry-developed Carbon Star standard. The standard provides concrete Central Coast Concreting Solutions producers, contractors and designers with a simple way to calculate, specify and track their specific carbon intensity over the life cycle of a product.
A third potential improvement is to use less concrete overall, which will help reduce the need for transportation and cuts the time needed for construction work, saving citizens more than a billion hours in lost productivity each year. Further digitalization of the construction process, such as 3D printing and advanced computer modeling, could also help reduce the quantity of concrete used per project, reducing waste and associated embodied carbon.
The key is to make sure these newer products and solutions are incorporated into the construction process, but that will require changing some of the mindsets that are still based on what has been done in the past. For instance, Dell explains that in many cases, construction projects pour more concrete than is necessary to meet a design specification because they don’t want to risk running out of the concrete before it hardens. This practice, he says, needs to be changed by providing contractors with better tools to determine how much concrete they actually need for their project.