What Makes Concrete a Sustainable Building Material?

//What Makes Concrete a Sustainable Building Material?

What Makes Concrete a Sustainable Building Material?

The sustainability of our day to day processes and their impact on the environment is a top concern of society today. And one of the biggest industries in the sustainability spotlight is the construction industry.

Many are asking “how sustainable of a building material is concrete?”. We’re here to answer that question, set the record straight and tell you how we plan on increasing the sustainability of concrete in the future.  

Concrete IS a sustainable building material

There are multiple reasons why concrete is and will continue to be a sustainable building material:

Minimal Waste

Unlike other building materials that must be cut to size, concrete can be produced in the exact quantity needed. It is then poured into exact molds which eliminates excessive leftover material. If there is left over product, it typically goes back to the plant to be molded into large, semi-regular blocks. These are then used to shore up eroding hillsides, among other purposes.

Ability to Retain Stormwater

Pervious concrete is a special type of structural concrete with a high porosity. Because it allows water from precipitation and other sources to pass directly through, it’s mainly used for flatwork applications. When pervious concrete makes driveways, sidewalks, parking lots, and other paved areas, it can help retain stormwater runoff and replenish local water supplies. Paved surfaces tend to be impervious and can prevent natural water infiltration into the soil leading to erosion, flash flooding, water table depletion, and pollution. Pervious concrete is one of the many low impact development techniques that builders use to protect water quality and work towards sustainability in construction.


Light colored concrete pavements and roofs absorb less heat than dark-colored materials like asphalt. They also reflect more solar radiation back into the atmosphere than dark-colored materials like asphalt. This means concrete does not contribute to the urban island effect.

Energy Efficiency

Homes built with concrete walls, foundations, and floors are highly energy efficient. When you build with concrete, you get to the opportunity to take advantage of concrete’s inherent thermal mass. Homeowners and businesses can significantly cut their heating and cooling bills and even install a smaller-capacity HVAC system.  


Other products like wood can rot, mold and burn. However concrete structures are durable, long lasting, and will never combust omitting toxic particles into the air. Life spans for concrete building products can be double, sometimes triple those of other common building materials.

Abundant and Renewable

The predominant raw material for the cement in concrete is limestone. Which just so happens to be one of the more abundant minerals on earth. Marine life remains are responsible for forms Limestone (calcium carbonate). Since there are so many deposits available above sea level, ocean mining may never come into play for manufacturing concrete.

Limestone isn’t the only element of in concrete. There are renewable sources such as fly ash, slag cement, and silica fume. All of which are waste byproducts from power plants, steel mills, and various other types of manufacturing facilities.   

New developments and innovations for sustainability in the concrete industry

In addition to the previously listed points, there are also new developments and innovations being made within the industry. These developments allow for the removal of environmental pollutants and aim for sustainability and construction that is environmentally-friendly.

Any environmentally concerned individual knows that CO2 is a known greenhouse gas, accounting for nearly 84% of global greenhouse gas. Cement production accounts for about 3-5% of the world’s CO2 greenhouse gas emission, creating a concern for the concrete industry!

While it’s true that the production of cement results in the emission of CO2, there are many steps the industry is taking to not only make the process less harmful for the environment but remove CO2 from the air altogether.

CarbonCure technology advances sustainability efforts

One especially innovative technology called CarbonCure has found a way to use CO2 to make better concrete products. The technique works like this:

  • Collect CO2 from smokestacks of large polluters.
  • Purify CO2 and deliver it to a concrete plant.
  • Store CO2 in a liquid state in pressure tanks.
  • Inject liquid CO2 into cement mix (done with a controlled operating system).
  • The CO2 combines with CaO in the mix to form a solid mineral.

What results from the CarbonCure process is permanent CO2 sequestration (the capture and storage of CO2 forever) and a concrete mix that looks, finishes and performs the same as any regular concrete mix.

We acknowledge that cement’s carbon footprint is a significant environmental concern but know that concrete is a sustainable building material. As a result, we are and will continue to take steps towards making the production of concrete more sustainable. The future of concrete and our environment is looking bright!

In order to get the perfect mix for your project, (including a mix that is green and environmentally friendly, such as the CarbonCure mix mentioned above) answer the questions on this checklist to help your ready-mix producer create the best mix for you.

Furthermore, if you’d like your team to learn about the sustainability of concrete and the CarbonCure system we offer, we offer a lunch and learn presentation on the topic. Click here for information on our lunch and learn presentations and how to schedule one.