Concrete is not the most environmentally correct building material. For every ton produced, a ton of greenhouse gas is emitted, either through the decomposition of limestone, the plant supplying the electricity, the redymix trucks idling and turning endlessly- it amounts to 7% of total CO2 emission worldwide. There are also Nitrous Oxide emissions, particulate emissions and traffic and noise concerns- it is heavy stuff and a lot of work to move around.
But it is low maintenance, durable, fireproof, has fabulous thermal mass and for architects, is incredibly flexible- we would not have Le Corbusier's wonders without it. Thus treehugger was excited to learn about the University of Michigan project to develop new kinds of fiber reinforced concrete that is significantly stronger, more flexible and resistant to cracking- this will enable architects and engineers to design structures that last longer and use significantly less material.
These engineered Cement Composites are 500 times more resistant to cracking and 40 percent lighter in weight. Tiny fibers that comprise about 2 percent of the mixture's volume partly account for its performance. Also, the materials in the concrete itself are designed for maximum flexibility.
Comparison studies by the School of Natural Resources and Environment's Center for Sustainable Systems, in conjunction with UM's group, show that over "60 years of service on a bridge deck, the ECC is 37 percent less expensive, consumes 40 percent less energy, and produces 39 percent less carbon dioxide (a major cause of global warming) than regular concrete." However this is based on an assumption that it will last twice as long as conventional concrete, which is certainly not yet proven.