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5 sustainable alternatives to carbon intensive concrete

07.09.2017
5 sustainable alternatives to carbon intensive concrete

We’re surrounded by concrete; it’s in our buildings, our roads, our tunnels, and runways. In fact, we produce around 10 billion tonnes of concrete every year, that’s more than a tonne each for every person on earth. 

 

Strong, durable, and affordable, the benefits of concrete are undeniable. But there’s one issue that gives the material a bad name – its carbon intensive production process.

 

Most of the components of concrete – water, sand, and gravel – are natural, but its one key ingredient – cement – has major environmental implications. Industrial extraction and high temperatures in the production process lead to one tonne of CO2 emitted for every tonne of cement produced. This accounts for 5% of annual global anthropogenic CO2 produced.

 

There is a host of ways to avoid using concrete in construction; here are five alternative methods to reduce carbon levels in your next project.

 

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Greencrete

 

Greencrete’s patterned, perforated blocks allow grass or other plants to grow within them. Creating a striking aesthetic, the grass reduces the amount of concrete used and absorbs rainwater. 

 

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Hempcrete and Timbercrete

 

Another approach to ‘greening’ concrete is to substitute cement for more natural materials. Hempcrete uses the inner fibres of the ever-versatile hemp plant, a fast-growing renewable material. Whereas Timbercrete uses a mixture of industrial waste sawdust and concrete. Both materials are far lighter than traditional concrete, leading to reduced transportation costs.

 

 

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 Image: Wikimedia Commons

 

Mycelium

 

Why not grow your own concrete-like material? Mycelium is a fully natural material made from the root structure of fungi. It can be encouraged to grow in certain shaped molds and once dried it is extremely light. 

 

concrete

Image: Wikimedia Commons

 

Ferrock and Ashcrete

 

As with Hempcrete and Timbercrete, Ferrock and Ashcrete use alternative components – this time industrial waste. Ferrock contains steel dust, making it stronger than traditional concrete and able to absorb and trap CO2 in its drying process. Ashcrete uses fly ash, a by-product of burning coal, enabling recycled material to form 97% of traditional components.

 

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Aircrete

 

Aircrete, also known as autoclaved aerated concrete, consists of 80% recycled content. Requiring no additional fireproofing, Aircrete comes off 8% cheaper than a timber frame. The lightweight material can be used for loadbearing purposes, and paint or wallpaper can be applied straight onto the smooth surface.

 

With a growing concern for sustainability in the industry, these innovative solutions are ideal for cutting down on carbon intensive concrete.

 

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