It isn’t a secret that the construction industry has a significant impact on the environment. Several architecture and engineering firms and projects are looking for green alternatives to protect the environment without affecting the industry altogether. As a result, eco-friendly materials and designs have been the focus of this kind of project. However, understanding the environmental impact of concrete and finding green alternatives for these essential materials is another challenge we need to tackle.
Why Is Concrete Bad for the Environment?
One of the biggest problems with concrete and cement manufacture is that this industry is responsible for emitting 5% of annual anthropogenic global CO2 production. This is only second to coal-powered electricity. In other words, for every ton of cement produced, there is also one ton of CO2 being produced. Therefore, it is urgent for the building and construction industries to analyze current manufacturing processes and find alternatives that are friendlier to the environment.
How Is Concrete Made?
In order to have a deeper insight into the manufacturing process, we need to understand how cement and concrete are made. First, limestone is heated to temperatures close to 10,000°C. Limestone breaks down into calcium oxide, silicon oxides, and carbon dioxide.
These are mixed and combined in order to produce tri-calcium silicate, which is turned into a fine powder that we usually know as a clinker. Lastly, gypsum is added to the clinker, and this results in cement, the main ingredient of concrete. Burning fossil fuels to heat limestone and breaking down calcium carbonate into calcium oxide and CO2 takes a huge toll on the environment. This is why the environmental impact of concrete manufacturing processes must be modified.
Are There Greener Processes Available?
Many experts have looked for new, eco-friendly alternative processes in order to reduce the environmental impact of concrete. For example, one of the most effective processes includes using electrolysis to produce concrete. This would help to replace the kiln used in the initial part of the process, having electrolysis produce lime, carbon, and oxygen molecules.
Another quite simple solution consists in simply making stronger, better concrete, so that it lasts longer, and so that less concrete is actually used. Increasing the quality and reducing the amount of material needed would significantly reduce the environmental impact of concrete, too.
Lastly, using solar power instead of fossil fuels is another effective and eco-friendly alternative that experts have started to look into. Kilns used in the traditional process need to be heated to incredibly high temperatures. Using green energy sources instead of fossil fuels can remove a large portion of the CO2 that is produced during the process of making concrete. As a result, we would be able to use the same materials, but with the difference of the environment not being jeopardized in the process.