Sustainable Momentum

The green building and sustainable development fever sweeping the construction business prompts concrete and cement interests to position their paving,


The green building and sustainable development fever sweeping the construction business prompts concrete and cement interests to position their paving, architectural and structural products against alternatives of competing materials. Promotion and customer education are keeping producers and national groups representing them at the forefront of the sustainability push, and concrete and cement-based products synonymous with strong life-cycle cost performance.

Favorable feedback from design professionals who have a hand in evaluating and specifying green building materials and methods is reflected in The Sustainable Development Market 2008, a survey Portland Cement Association released in March. More than three out of four design professionals questioned on preferred materials for sustainable design cited concrete, acknowledging its energy efficiency, durability and reduced maintenance. Few, if any, construction materials offer concrete’s wide range of sustainable and environmental benefits, says PCA President/CEO Brian McCarthy. This survey shows the design and building community recognizes that concrete can address the issues most important to sustainable development activities.

On a scale of one to five, the survey’s 500-plus respondents ranked the importance of 22 attributes when selecting building materials, with energy efficiency (4.5 mean rating), durability (4.4), and aesthetics (4.2) topping the field. When survey participants were asked which building material they preferred to meet those attributes, concrete was the most common response for energy efficiency and durability. Buildings with exterior concrete walls utilize less energy to heat and cool than similarly insulated buildings with wood or steel frame walls, McCarthy notes. The superior insulation, air tightness, and mass of the [concrete] walls can reduce energy for heating and cooling by up to 40 percent. Plus, smaller, more efficient heating and cooling equipment can be installed.

Concrete’s role goes beyond energy efficiency, PCA Market Research staff affirms. After measuring attributes’ mean ratings and evaluating how concrete, wood and steel ranked against those qualities, an index revealed green factors of 4.20 for concrete, 4.03 for wood, and 3.85 for steel.

As PCA took design professionals’ pulse on concrete and cement-based materials, the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association secured U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) Education Provider designation and launched a course, Green Building with Concrete (page 14). The first offering will follow NRMCA’s Focus on Sustainable Development-themed Concrete Technology Forum. Featured presenters at the May 20-22 event in Denver include Scot Horst, whose sustainable materials firm runs a Cool Climate Concrete (C3) carbon-dioxide offset program based on the use of blended cement; and, Turner Construction’s Michael Deane, operations manager for sustainable construction. Fifty-plus forum sessions will address such topics as Pervious Concrete Systems; Concrete’s Impact on Urban Heat Islands; Carbon Footprint of Concrete; Sustainable Development Initiatives; and, Optimizing Recycled Content. A product expo showcasing sustainable development products and services rounds out the agenda.

NRMCA’s forum and PCA’s survey are among undertakings that support timely delivery of the sustainability message common to cast-in-place, precast and masonry building methods. A green thumbs up to those helping the industry stay ahead of this rapidly developing market curve.
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