The Cost of Living with Concrete

Blog By Lulie Anderson

Concrete is a staple element within the construction industry, marking it a key substance for scrutiny when examining environmental impacts within construction. However, it quickly becomes prevalent that concrete poses issues beyond environmental well-being, including disruptions to the health of humans and other organisms and our attitude towards nature.

  • A Health Risk

    Traditional construction methods continue to dominate, and through their application, many people involved in such processes suffer health issues, some of which knock years off an individual’s life. Furthermore, overexposure to concrete and other material particles within the air on-site can seriously reduce construction workers’ quality of life. Concrete can cause illnesses such as lung cancer and silicosis.

  • Harming The Soil

    Due to the toxicity of concrete, it requires extra planning around its containment on construction sites not to pollute local water supplies. Concrete also requires extra precautions around cleaning vehicles and equipment, from which harmful substances can be dispersed through the air to land in water and on flora, causing risk to wildlife, humans and livestock.

  • CO2 Emissions

    The process of making concrete creates the most significant Co2 emissions in construction due to fossil fuels used in the mixing of materials; this aspect of production accumulates to about 8% of global carbon emissions. However, it is primarily the scale at which this process occurs that makes it so environmentally scarring, for it is second only to water in global consumption.

  • Quarrying

    Quarrying is a process that involves pollution and ecosystem disruption both in the act of quarrying and transportation required to shift massive loads of material. The upheaval of soil and sand can lead to landscape alterations beyond a quarry if it is close to a water source, resulting in loss of habitat for local wildlife that contributes to an area’s environmental stability. The quarrying of stone and metal can further be interpreted to consolidate unhealthy attitudes towards the environment, as they present it as something to be hacked into in aid of human developments. It raises the question of how more sustainable construction methods, which do not involve such explosive, eye-catching processes, might alter visual interpretations of how we interact with the land.