Working for a sustainable environment
Concrete offers the highest level of "whole-life performance" and the industry is continually striving to provide a net positive environmental impact throughout the lifetime of its products.
Concrete: whole-life performance
At the heart of the Concrete Initiative's efforts is a "whole-life performance" approach. This is a concept whereby all impacts, including those from raw material extraction, manufacturing, construction, use of the building, to end-of-life disposal or reuse, are taken together when assessing the impacts of a given construction. Focusing on just part of the lifecycle would give a misleading idea of the overall impacts of buildings and infrastructure projects. When looked at from this whole-life perspective, the benefits of concrete become evident, thanks in particular to its durability, thermal mass, and the availability and abundance of its raw materials (including a large proportion of secondary materials).
Concrete: energy efficient buildings
Concrete buildings can provide substantial energy savings during their lifetime. The high level of thermal mass in concrete constructions means that indoor temperatures remain stable irrespective of external fluctuations. This sharply reduces the need for extra heating or cooling (as well as providing greater comfort). As the energy use of buildings accounts for the largest part of their environmental impact, increased energy efficiency in buildings offsets the impact resulting from materials production.
Concrete: part of the circular economy
Cement uses alternative fuels and materials from wastes to reduce the reliance on fossil fuels and primary raw materials. The environmental impact is further reduced by using by-products from other industries, such as slag and fly ash. At the end of its life, concrete can be fully recycled, either into new concrete or in other applications such as road base. Therefore concrete is part of the "circular economy".
Concrete: restoring the landscape and encouraging biodiversity
The industry recognises the impact of its resource extraction activities on the landscape. For example, the cement industry has developed a clear set of principles on quarry rehabilitation under the auspices of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development's Cement Sustainability Initiative. It has also invested in quarry rehabilitation programmes. For example, the Landscape Rehabilitation Plan in the SECIL-Outão Plant (Portugal) integrated a marl and limestone quarry back into the natural landscape, and restored the native vegetation . The Concrete Initiative is committed to developing best practices in protecting local biodiversity and ecosystems.