In English | Issue 4/2021

Preface: Towards sustainable and emission-free construction

Preface: Towards sustainable and emission-free construction

Sustainable construction is a complete entity affected by many different subareas. At present, climate goals call for new concrete actions from the entire construction industry towards a carbon neutral society.

Architecture and construction were already in the ancient times governed by three parameters: beauty, durability and usability. These same objectives are still valid today. A well designed and built building will stand the test of time and have a service life of well over a hundred years. A building that is modifiable as needed will always find a new lease of life which will further support the sustainability of construction.

When buildings and structures are designed and built from the very start with maximum modifiability in mind, emissions can also be reduced throughout the life cycle. Structures and spatial solutions play an important role in this equation. The materials used in the building contribute to the mitigation of the footprint of construction. The energy efficiency of the building, on the other hand, plays a significant role in total emissions during the whole life cycle.

The selection of concrete and concrete structures matters. Concrete and concrete structures must be selected appropriately for different external conditions and stress factors. For example, it would be sensible to choose a concrete of an as high standard as possible for the external envelope of a building, and one that allows easy maintenance and repairs. Concrete structures for the interior need to be designed as modifiable as possible to ensure their usability in a refurbished building.

The decarbonisation goals apply to the entire building sector, the construction industry and the building products industry. Determined efforts have been taken in the production of concrete and stone materials to cut down emissions, and new methods and innovations have already been introduced for this purpose. The energy efficiency of the building during its service life is a significant factor in terms of total emissions during the whole life cycle.

Domestic cement industry has managed to reduce its emissions by almost 25% in comparison with 1990 and the technologies that are already available will make it possible to achieve a further reduction of 32%.

Work carried out in order to cut down emissions from the production of concrete and concrete product materials is a continuous operation. Owing to the long-term efforts, the investments that businesses have made as well as new innovations, buildings based on the use of concrete and stone will have even lower emissions.

The durability and maintenance need of the materials, as well as the possibility to recycle and reuse them, not forgetting cost-efficiency, are also important factors, in addition to the carbon footprint of the material production process.

Efforts have been invested in the recycling of concrete for quite some time. The recycling rate of stone-based materials already exceeds 80%. Recycled material is utilised in e.g., infrastructure projects and as aggregate for secondary products. The possibilities for reuse are developing continuously.

Maritta Koivisto, Editor in chief, Betoni-journal