Krystol Magazine – Summer 2009
Concrete’s reputation as not sustainable based on confusion, not fact.
The American Concrete Institute (ACI) is tackling concrete’s reputation as environmentally unfriendly head on. It has signed a memorandum with other concrete organizations aimed at aligning the industry’s sustainable development activities.
Concrete is one of the most sustainable building materials available, states Kari Yuers, CEO of Kryton and a member of the ACI Board of Directors. “What could be more sustainable than having things that work and last?” Yuers says.
Yuers and the other board members are working to increase the understanding of sustainability issues among ACI members and improve the public perception of concrete.
Since the days of Roman civilization, concrete has been the building material of choice because of its strength and durability. But it’s also renewable and recyclable. It can easily be recycled and reused as the base material for roads, sidewalks and concrete slabs, which saves manufacturing and trucking new materials. It doesn’t rust, rot, burn or decay, which is why we can still see Roman structures from more than 2,000 years ago. Concrete’s versatility allows it to be used in any design, from big box retail centres to elegant building spires. And concrete is a huge help when you’re trying to reduce energy use. Buildings with exterior concrete walls use less energy to heat and cool.
Concrete gets its “bad rap” from its association with cement, the primary building block for making concrete. Manufacturing cement is energy intensive, calling for finely ground limestone, clay and sand to be heated and rotated in a kiln to temperatures reaching 1,450°C.
Promoting concrete’s sustainability has become a primary goal for the ACI. It has earmarked resources to support sustainability issues, enhanced content about sustainability in its documents and products, and entered into an understanding with the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association (NRMCA), the Concrete Reinforcing Steel Institute, the National Concrete Masonry Association, the Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute, and the Portland Cement Association (PCA) to provide advocacy, technology and educational resources to convey the social and sustainable value of concrete structures.
The memorandum of understanding signed by these organizations recognizes concrete structures’ social values, including resource efficiency, safety and protection, financial responsibility, operational continuity, long-term durability, aesthetics, reduced production of byproducts and societal connectivity.
“I see environmental sustainability improving in our industry and as awareness grows it’s only going to get better,” says Yuers.