Updated: Mar 11, 2019
Concrete is among the most common materials around us. It’s everywhere - on roads, on paths, in walls, in houses and on bridges. It can be mixed with a variety of materials giving tremendous strength to structures and surfaces.
Concrete has also found its way into home décor since it provides intriguing items for home decoration. It’s even used to make wearable products such as concrete jewelry.
It really seems to be everywhere, but is concrete green and ecological?
Is concrete a natural material?
Natural materials such as wood and stone have been traditionally used as home décor due to their beautiful looks and perennial nature. They are also considered less harmful to the environment.
A material can be classified as natural for two reasons:
1) It has been cut from the ground
2) It’s considered authentic - that is, it grows old, ages and changes over time and with exposure to air.
Concrete is usually made up of water, sand and gravel, which exist naturally in our environment, as well as cement, produced out of chalk, clay, sand, iron ore and plaster.
Once it’s created, the “look and feel” of concrete is similar to that of natural stone, even mimicking its characteristics. It’s a breathing, absorbing substance that changes over time, and will, then, be considered an authentic material and as such, a natural one.
There are however, those who disagree with this designation, mainly because:
- Cement production involves deep quarrying of the Earth's surface, which is harmful and requires considerable resources
- During cement production, there are toxic gas emissions
- Although concrete in its gross sense is a "green" material, it’s not considered environmentally- friendly because it’s industrially produced, mixed and applied.
- Although the material is recyclable, it’s necessary to crush concrete to recycle it, which requires considerable effort.
Despite these claims though, cement has been embraced by many green building architects.
What makes concrete green?
- environmentally friendly. It’s biodegradable and recyclable
- an available material since it's produced near the location where it’s used, which significantly reduces the environmental impact of material transport
- an energy-saving material since it can absorb heat and release it slowly, which reduces heating and cooling costs by up to 25%
- the most durable material of all building materials. It stands the test of time and it’s immune to hazards such as rodents, natural conditions and more.
Indeed, with modern and innovative technologies, the cement production process has become more eco-efficient over time, using pollutant substitutes and improving energy efficiency which has led to reduced CO2 emissions in the industry.
In recent years, for example, a more refined development of concrete has emerged - white concrete. It’s concrete produced with a special mixture that contains white cement, without any coal or lead, making it more environmentally attractive.
Concrete continues to become more ecological over time and its enormous advantages ensure that it will continue to become more so.
With its definite advantages, strength and resilience, concrete should be a key element today and in future green designs, buildings and structures.