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Concrete Facts

Concrete is made by combining only four ingredients: Sand, Cement (limestone), Aggregate and Water. 

Concrete is often criticised for being less than ideal for the environment than other building materials, particularly in many ‘Green Building’ circles. However the criticisms are not necessarily based on fact and often ignore the many inherent attributes and advantages for ecologically sensitive development that concrete offers. Knowing a little more about concrete can help.

Concrete Production  
  • Cement production does produce significant amounts of CO2 in the process of de-carbonation of raw limestone under intense heating.
  • Energy to generate heat for this process is typically provided by industrial waste products that otherwise would be difficult to dispose of in a clean manner.
  • The decomposition of concrete over its lifespan is a re-carbonation process which absorbs virtually all of the CO2 emitted from the cement manufacturing process. 
  • This re-absorption is accelerated when concrete is crushed. Therefore concrete can be considered as having a near zero CO2 atmospheric effect over its lifespan.
  • Supply lines of cement to concrete plant to building site are direct and efficient. Raw materials are typically transported by bulk shipping and other transport drastically limiting the energy footprint.
  • When considering the extended life span of concrete structures in years over those constructed with timber-based materials, the comparative energy footprint of concrete is very low.
  • Reinforced concrete can be entirely recycled at end-of-life by feeding back into the concrete resource cycle or readily used for other things such as roads or ecologically inert clean fill.
  • The considerable lifespan and recyclability of concrete is rarely discussed when promoting timber for construction.

Concrete is Ecologically Inert 
  • Concrete is made from Limestone, Crushed Rock, Sand and Water – all natural and abundant raw materials.
  • Concrete is non-toxic to humans and the environment.
  • Concrete raw material extraction and production does not harm trees, forests or the delicate ecosystems that exist in forested areas.
  • Concrete production does not deplete the natural nutrients in the soils beneath timber forests and does not require artificial top dressing or replenishment of soil nutrients once the timber resource is extracted.
  • Concrete at end-of-life can be used as safe bulk landfill or used for ecologically neutral land reclamation.
  • Contaminated Runoff or absorbed substances in old concrete are not the fault of concrete. These are other substances that humans commonly and carelessly use or fail to manage.

Concrete is Resilient to Natures Forces
  • Concrete is the only bulk construction material naturally resistant to fire.
  • Concrete will not be consumed by, and is not food for insects.
  • Insitu concrete structures can be designed to have very limited or no joints between structural elements which are vulnerable to movement or failure in earthquakes or extreme wind events.
  • Concrete structures are not vulnerable to water immersion in flood events.
  • Reinforced concrete engineering knowledgebase provides the ability to design concrete structures for virtually any context or volatile environment.
  • Concrete structures can be readily repaired when subject to water from floods or storm surge events.
  • Tornados, wildfires, earthquakes, floods; building with concrete is Building-In Resilience.

These attributes of concrete are well proven and are a formidable set of characteristics for modern residential construction. The benefits can be considered transformative, however the potential can only be released with the right approach to delivering finished structure. This needs to be efficient, easy to understand, flexible and well resolved. Our approach to site delivery of concrete structure is primarily based around ICF technologies which are introduced on the following page.