If it is made of concrete, anything is possible
Concrete is essential to our lives. 70% of the world’s inhabitants live in buildings with concrete structures. Concrete is also the foundation of transport infrastructures (viaducts, road surfaces, ports, airports, etc.), of the infrastructures needed to properly manage water (piping networks, channels, dams, etc.), the energy sector (thermal and nuclear power plants) and buildings.
In the face of an expected increase in extreme natural phenomena and the alarming increase in the number of tremors, it is essential to make technological breakthroughs to improve the performance of concrete and strengthen it, make it lighter, more ductile more resistant to fatigue, etc. Such improvements will make it possible to increase not only the service level of concrete structures but also their safety level, thereby helping to improve the social aspect of safety.
Concrete has made major progress in reuse and recyclability, one of the key points in this respect being its ability to act as a drain for CO2, and it is essential to carry on progressing in this area.
At present, we spend up to 90% of our lives in buildings, and in Europe 42% of energy consumption and 35% of greenhouse gas emissions come from buildings.
It must be remembered that in a building, approximately 90% of CO2 emissions are due to its use during its working life (60 years), 8-10% are produced while the materials are being manufactured and between 2 and 3% occur during the construction process.
A building’s sustainability has to be calculated bearing in mind its entire life cycle assessment (LCA), from the extraction of the raw materials with which the construction materials are manufactured, until its demolition and the recycling of the rubble, without forgetting its period of use. The LCA is the only tool able to establish the construction’s sustainability, weighing up and objectivising the energy, environmental, social and economic parameters.
The great durability of concrete structures, plus the fact that they require little maintenance and upkeep, spare citizens bother and expenses while improving their quality of life. If we add this to the advantages of concrete in urban environments such as a reduction in room temperature or the possibility of using concrete to reduce atmospheric pollution, we find ourselves in a field that must be supported and strengthened immediately.
Concrete in the future
Recycled and polymer concrete, concrete with fibres and lightweight concrete, incorporating sensors into concrete structures and depolluting concrete, are just a few of the aspects that shape concrete’s immediate future. The structures of concrete that must evolve in time, adapting to demand and guaranteeing a service with a higher level of safety and comfort. This has to be applied not only to new works, but also, and especially, to updating and modernising heritage.
The future is already here, and concrete cannot let itself be sidelined by progress. The concrete sector will undoubtedly be one of the sectors with most innovations.
The advantages of constructing with concrete
Robust, strong, with potential for slim solutions.
Long working life.
Local and accessible material.
In buildings, energy saving with air-conditioning systems.
Fuel saving with road surfaces.
It expresses itself in forms, textures and colours.
Robust and can withstand adverse weather conditions.
Protects against flooding.
Safe in seismic phenomena.
Withstands emulsifying salts, oils and waste.
In buildings, interior air quality unchanged.
Keeps temperatures stable.
Contributes to energy efficiency in buildings, thereby reducing CO2.
Lowers the room temperature in urban environments removing pockets of heat.
Lower CO2 emissions throughout its life cycle.
More reflectance, less need for lighting.