Sustainability refers to the ability to build for today and tomorrow without depleting future resources. A growing global population is beginning to strain the finite resources available on the planet. Sustainability seeks to balance the economic, social and environmental impacts, recognizing that population growth will continue. Sustainable development brings this evaluation to the design and construction industry.
Loosely defined, a carbon footprint is a measure of how many greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) a person, organization, event, or product produces. However, carbon footprints are often simplified by measuring the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) produced. United States cement manufacturing accounts for less than 1.5 percent of all U.S. human-generated CO2 emissions. Concrete pavements are also an excellent choice when considering the lifetime environmental impact. From mining of the locally produced raw materials through construction and long-term maintenance-free performance, concrete stands out as the most cost-effective, sustainable paving material. View or download a fact sheet on concrete benefits.
Quiet Concrete Pavements
When a vehicle travels on any type of pavement surface, there will be noise. The sound level is primarily a function of the surface finish and not the material of which it’s constructed. Concrete pavements are adaptable and capable of reducing noise pollution as well as environmental pollution. View or download a fact sheet on quiet concrete pavements.
Pervious concrete is a free-draining pavement which exhibits sustainable benefits. Uniformly sized agregrate, falling within a narrow aggregate gradation, leads to a concrete with open void areas that promote fast drainage of large volumes of water. The natural infiltration of an area remains unchanged so the water can recharge the water table, thereby avoiding surface runoff which must be treated before it is returned to local streams. View or download a fact sheet on pervious concrete.
Eventually, all pavements must be replaced. After a long and reliable service life, concrete pavements can be crushed and reused. In fact, concrete is 100 percent recyclable (and the steel rebar within is recyclable as well). View or download a fact sheet on recycled concrete.
Urban Heat Island
As urban areas develop and vegetation is replaced with buildings, roads, and other heat-absorbing infrastructure, the ambient urban air temperatures increase. Cities become “heat islands” surrounded by significantly cooler, rural areas. Concrete has a higher solar reflectance to minimize the urban heat island effect.
Cement Manufacturing Transparency Reporting
As an early industry sector responder to evolving green building requirements, PCA and its members were among contributors to the creation of 2014 Product Category Rules (PCR) on North American cements published by ASTM, Product Category Rules For Preparing an Environmental Product Declaration for Portland, Blended Hydraulic, Masonry, Mortar, and Plastic (Stucco) Cements. View or download the PCR.
Greenroads Rating System
The Greenroads Rating System is a third-party, points-based rating system that distinguishes more sustainable new, reconstructed, and rehabilitated roads and transportation infrastructure projects. The system provides metrics to measure the effect of design and construction practices which can be implemented on a project to earn points toward one of four certification awards.
See Greenroads Rating System for information on how concrete can contribute to the sustainability credits within the rating system.
Click Greenroads Foundation for information on the foundation.