Towards smart cities
According to the European Commission, 75% of the EU population live in towns and cities. Demographic trends suggest this proportion will continue to increase. Living space will be at a premium. This presents a range of challenges, including the need for housing water and sanitation, energy supply and transport infrastructure.
Concrete is a highly flexible, durable, affordable and energy-efficient material that can effectively address a wide variety of needs. It can provide above-ground and underground infrastructure, ranging from energy-efficient buildings and housing, to water infrastructure, roads and innovative underground transport solutions. Concrete can also be cast into virtually any shape or form, which allows for design freedom and variety in the applications. Concrete provides the very foundations of Europe's "smart cities" of the future.
The trend towards increasing urbanisation results in a growing need for affordable housing. The concrete sector can help tackle the shortage of housing and the need for rapid construction by providing comfortable, affordable and energy efficient housing. Its flexibility means that concrete can also be found in interior settings such as kitchens and bathrooms. Concrete's ability to absorb temperature variations (called thermal mass) contributes to building comfort as well as lower costs. Its durability means maintenance and renovation are also reduced.
Safe, secure and resilient
Concrete is made to last. It can withstand major shocks, absorb sound, and regulate temperatures. Concrete buildings can have a minimum service life of 50 years, but may remain serviceable for hundreds of years, if properly maintained. The durability and resilience of concrete makes it ideal for constructing buildings that demand high safety levels. For example, nuclear power plants and hydroelectric dams are constructed almost entirely of concrete. It has properties that will be mandatory as national building codes are revised to address extreme weather linked to climate change, such as rising sea levels and storms.
Safety comes as standard with concrete. It does not require special coatings or sealers. Concrete has unsurpassed and proven fire resistance properties. It does not burn or melt and retains its structural stability at high temperatures. This, combined with its affordability, acoustic performance and healthier indoor air quality is why concrete is ideal for building hospitals, schools and other public buildings.
The concrete industry is working hard to improve the responsible sourcing of materials throughout the supply chain. In the UK for example, by 2011 almost 96% of ready-mixed concrete was certified as responsibly sourced. This certification covers organisational governance, supply chain management and environmental and social aspects.
Long-lasting, safe roads
Concrete's durability, low maintenance and lower whole life costs and impacts mean it is perfectly suited for road pavements. As well as offering a comfortable, safe and quiet ride, concrete roads also contribute to reducing CO₂ emissions of vehicles. On top of all this, concrete roads ensure increased fire safety in tunnels!