Get the Facts on Concrete!
Concrete is one of the most used man made products in the world.
The usage of concrete, worldwide, is twice as much as steel, wood, plastics, and aluminum combined. Concrete’s use in the modern world is only exceeded by the usage of naturally occurring water.
Concrete powers a US $35 billion industry, employing more than two million workers in the United States alone. More than 55,000 miles (89,000 km) of highways in the United States are paved with this material.
Concrete is one of the most durable building materials.
Concrete provides superior fire resistance, compared with wooden construction and can gain strength over time.
Many concrete structures are built with an expected lifetime of approximately 100 years, but researchers have suggested that adding chemical admixtures such as silica fume, could extend the useful life of bridges and other concrete uses to as long as 16,000 years.
Concrete buildings are more resistant to fire than those constructed using wood or steel frames, since concrete does not burn. Concrete reduces the risk of structural collapse and is an effective fire shield, providing safe means of escape for occupants and protection for fire fighters.
Options for non-combustible construction include floors, ceilings and roofs made of cast-in-place and hollow-core precast concrete. For walls, concrete masonry technology and Insulating Concrete Forms (ICFs) are additional options. ICFs are hollow blocks or panels made of fire-proof insulating foam that are stacked to form the shape of the walls of a building and then filled with reinforced concrete to create the structure. On average an ICF home owner will save 44% for heating and 32% for air conditioning costs. These savings depend on style of home.
Concrete also provides the best resistance of any building material to high winds, hurricanes, tornadoes due to its lateral stiffness that results in minimal horizontal movement.
Concrete is an Economical Choice.
Since concrete is durable and lasts longer than many other building materials, it costs less to maintain.
And while other building materials may have cost less at one time, that doesn’t seem to be the case today. Factors including the rise in oil prices and pavement deflection have helped concrete become a more affordable choice for construction material today.
MIT conducted a study which analyzed the real price behavior of wood, steel, concrete and asphalt using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) for a period of more than 30 years and found:
- Asphalt has risen 1.25% per year on average.
- Concrete has declined nearly 0.20% in real terms over the same timeframe.
- Concrete’s real price volatility is low at 2.9% while asphalt’s volatility is substantially higher at 6.3%.
- Lumber and steel’s real price volatility is even higher at three times more than concrete.
Concrete is Environmentally Friendly
Concrete is produced locally from abundant natural resources and can be made with reclaimed industrial materials that would otherwise burden landfills
Recycled materials in concrete reduce CO2 emissions.
At the end of a concrete building or pavement’s usable life, concrete can be recycled
Pervious concrete percolates stormwater into soil, recharging aquifers and preventing polluted runoff from overwhelming streams and lakes
Concrete’s thermal mass reduces temperature swings in buildings and conserves energy
Use of Insulating Concrete Form for above-grade wall systems provides for increased R values, reducing heating, cooling and infrastructure costs
Concrete’s light color reduces the heat island effect, lowering urban energy use
Concrete’s light color reflects more light at night, reducing lighting infrastructure and energy costs
Impervious concrete roofs support green landscaping, reducing water runoff and reducing heat island effect
Concrete helps achieve LEED certification
Sources: Wikipedia, National Ready Mixed Concrete Association, MIT Research: Effects of Inflation and Volatility on Construction Alternatives