The short answer is yes. But why is precast concrete sustainable? Precast concrete is made from natural ingredients like sand, gravel, and cement which are abundantly available in nature, minimizing environmental impacts related to transportation over long distances or industrial extraction processes. Additionally, prefabricated forms limit the environmental impact of making these components on-site.
Precast concrete is a miracle material for builders due to its countless possibilities. A question that often arises is – are precast concrete slabs sustainable building materials?
Discussing the sustainability of precast concrete or any other materials needs an understanding of the environmental impact of the material. In this article, we will examine all the details regarding the sustainability of precast concrete slabs.
What is Sustainability in Architecture and Construction?
Many people consider sustainable building materials as just an environmentally friendly construction option. However, there is more to sustainability besides its environmental impact. Three factors define a building material as sustainable:
Social Factor: This includes the effect of manufacturing the material on social sectors, such as the workers involved in its production. It is a well-known fact that construction workers work in unsafe environments. However, precast concrete is made in factories under controlled conditions, making it perfectly safe for workers.
Economic Factor: This represents the cost of purchasing the material and the cost of repairs and maintenance. Precast concrete is long-lasting and requires no repairs, making it a winner in this regard.
Environment Factor: Lastly, sustainable building material needs to be environmentally friendly. Precast concrete is made with the concept of recycling and has minimal waste compared to other materials. This advantage makes it an environmentally friendly construction material.
So precast concrete meets all three requirements to be a sustainable construction material. In the following sections, we will discuss in detail all the particular elements of precast concrete that make it an attractive option for environmentally friendly construction.
Is Precast Concrete Environmentally Friendly?
Yes. We have established that precast concrete is sustainable, and another of the benefits of using precast concrete is that it is a very environmentally friendly construction option. Compare the sustainability of precast concrete with poured concrete on-site, and the difference is considerable.
The best part is that while being an environmentally friendly option, precast concrete does not come with extra construction costs. Using precast concrete for construction projects can be cheaper than pouring concrete on-site when you factor in all the added costs of the latter.
What Makes Precast Concrete a Sustainable Building Material?
Many things make precast concrete a sustainable building material, more so than many other materials that are considered sustainable. These factors are:
Using precast concrete slabs from an expert manufacturer such as Premier Precast results in less concrete used for the same coverage because of the design optimization and minimal waste. The difference in the concrete used can be as much as 30%.
Concrete, in general, is a recyclable material. The concrete from demolished structures can be reused as concrete aggregates. Precast concrete takes the recycled materials a step further as it reuses the water that an on-site concrete mix consumes. The controlled conditions under which it is manufactured allow all the waste concrete to be recycled into the process.
Recycled materials are also used in the making of precast concrete itself. An example is the use of fly ash and recycled steel. Precast concrete is environmentally friendly because it is made of recycled materials and can be recycled.
Since precast concrete is made with industrial technology on a large scale, it makes the best possible use of resources. All the resources, such as concrete, water, energy, and labor, are used to the best of their ability. In on-site concrete mixes, a lot of resources go to waste, leading to considerably lower resource efficiency.
Additionally, precast concrete can incorporate insulation layers in the concrete slabs themselves, reducing the need for adding insulation materials later on. The same goes for surface finishing materials. Elements like steel forms, sand, and acids are reusable later for future manufacturing processes.
The majority of the carbon emissions for a traditional building occur after its construction. These emissions come in the form of maintenance, heating and cooling costs, and repairs. However, in the case of precast concrete, the high-quality control leads to a long-lasting material that does not require any maintenance or repairs in its lifetime. Additionally, its high thermal mass and the insulating layers improve energy conservation in green buildings through lower heating and cooling costs later.
Precast concrete is not a niche material that can lose its appeal or application in the future. It is versatile and suitable for extensive applications, from adding finishing aesthetics to making retaining walls and load-bearing components, from floors to walls and ceilings. The precast concrete manufacturing process is also suitable for making construction elements like beams and arches.
Weatherproof and Fire Resistant
Precast concrete structures are resistant to adverse weather conditions and even fires. Therefore, there is no chance that the resulting building can get damaged in any way and might require reconstruction. For construction projects made of precast concrete, a minimum lifespan of 100 years is a given in most climates.
Generally, people have a notion that sustainable building material is going to cost more. However, in the case of precast concrete, it is one of the most cost-effective construction materials in many climates. In fact, due to the time it saves, precast concrete is more cost-effective than site-poured concrete while offering a higher construction quality.
Precast concrete construction has a high safety element. Firstly, structures built using precast concrete slabs are fireproof – a big safety benefit. Additionally, precast concrete slabs do not get mold due to the addition of special additives. Also, no toxic substances are released while making precast concrete slabs, as certified companies like Premier Precast have to comply with national standards.
Most sustainable buildings do not have many options when it comes to design finishes. However, with precast concrete, you can get any design finish required. Because so many surface finish options are available, you might not even need to use secondary finishing for aesthetics. Many buildings designed with Premier Precast concrete panels have won awards for their architectural and aesthetic appeal.
Labor and Neighbor Friendly
Everyone is familiar with the noise that traditional construction makes. However, there is no such noise when using precast concrete since it does not involve concrete mixing on-site. The construction process is also cleaner, making it more comfortable for workers and people living nearby. The low noise pollution also adds to the sustainability of the building materials.
Carbonation is a process in which the material absorbs carbon dioxide, thereby reducing the carbon footprint. Precast concrete units and structures absorb more carbon dioxide due to carbonation than is released while manufacturing them. This further boosts its sustainable and environmentally friendly credentials as a construction material.
Indoor Air Quality
Usually, artificial heating and cooling equipment in a building ends up deteriorating indoor air quality. However, precast concrete’s thermal mass is high and incorporates many insulating elements, eliminating the need for secondary insulation or heating and cooling equipment.
As a result, it improves the indoor air quality of the building. In addition, precast concrete components do not release chemicals or toxic fumes. Therefore, these structures will not require chemical treatment at any time in the future, improving air quality even more.
All the raw materials used by the precast concrete industry are sourced directly from nature. Using natural materials like sand and limestone eliminates any need for the artificial construction of raw materials or using scarce resources.
Precast concrete uses no adhesives, reducing the number of artificial chemicals incorporated in precast concrete elements. Therefore, precast concrete products naturally make a green building.
Quality of Materials
Branded precast products, such as those sourced from Premier Precast, use the best available materials globally since the production occurs on a large scale. These have significantly higher quality than on-site concrete since the latter uses the best available local materials. Using the best possible materials instead of local materials also increases the lifetime of the structures and results in low maintenance and less need for repairs.
What is LEED Certification of Precast Concrete?
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, is a rating standard used to define how much environmentally friendly construction material is used for making a green building. It is a globally accepted standard that ensures that construction materials and methods are healthier, energy efficient, and cost-effective.
LEED certification is divided into four categories: Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. The categories are based on a points system. To qualify for LEED, a building must have a minimum score of 40. Once the building qualifies, it is placed in one of the categories below. The points required for each category are as follows:
- Certified: 40 to 49
- Silver: 50 to 59
- Gold: 60 to 79
- Platinum: 80 or more
How Does Precast Concrete Get Rated?
Precast concrete structures score high points since they use the ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ policy. Many factors influence whether a green building is certifiable for LEED. If you use precast concrete as the construction material, you will definitely be far ahead in the race.
Firstly, precast concrete reduces the quantity of concrete required compared to using poured concrete at the construction site. In addition, the steel forms, molds, and other equipment used in precast concrete construction are reusable. Lastly, the precast concrete panels can be broken and used as recycled materials – for example, finely ground powder or coarse aggregate.
Therefore, constructing precast concrete sustainable buildings is a great way to enter the platinum or gold LEED rating.
Precast concrete elements are among the most sustainable design and construction materials available. That is why precast products have become the go-to option for large-scale projects in the construction industry. Not only is precast concrete environmentally friendly, but it is also a safer and cost-effective option.
If you are wondering how to source precast concrete elements for your construction industry projects, Premier Precast is the best source. It is the leading precast concrete products manufacturer in the U.S. and offers superior quality to local markets. Premier’s precast concrete is available in a wide range of designs, shapes, and finishes to meet the particular requirements of diverse construction processes. And the panels can be delivered right to the building site.