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Is Concrete Losing Its Way?

Concrete has been a staple in the construction industry, just like flour in baking, it glues everything together. But the glue is starting to become unstuck as more research is highlighting the negative environmental impacts of cement - a core ingredient in concrete. The industrial extraction and high temperatures in the production process leads to one tonne of C02 emitted for every tonne of cement produced, accounting for 5% of worldwide man-made emissions of this gas.

Concrete has always claimed its merits on being strong, durable and affordable, and has been used in all aspects of construction, including underground services, to protect our waterways from wastewater and stormwater.  But is it time to reconsider how concrete, especially concrete tanks, rank on these points and if they are still the Thor-like hero we have come to expect?

Concrete is strong

Concrete strength is generally the reason why it’s chosen for construction, but there is more research being published to show that within waste water it’s not as strong as one may think. Due to the chemical composition of concrete and the acidity levels in the waste water, the concrete walls start to corrode, weakening the concrete structure.

Part of concrete’s strength is its rigidity, but if the earth moves underneath, the concrete won’t move and instead will just crack.This is particularly important in NZ where earthquakes could happen at any time and then the costs of fixing the concrete, often means ‘tear it out and start again’ which can be incredibly costly.

Concrete is heavy, especially as it’s changing from a liquid form to solid, and because of that, we’re seeing more pre-cast concrete built at a factory and then transported to the construction site. This tends to add to the cost and means extra planning as those on site need to know exactly when it’s arriving onsite to ensure that they are ready for it and can install it on time. 

Concrete is durable

Concrete was once seen as the longest lasting material there is, but with new technologies and the growth of plastic there are now products that last longer than concrete. Strong recyclable plastic as an example, can be used with a wax coating that in fact lasts longer than concrete as it lets water flow through and doesn’t have the same chemical composition as concrete.

Concrete is affordable

At a first glance concrete is affordable, it is often the most cost effective to purchase and install, which is great for this instant gratification day in age. However, when we take into account the whole life span of concrete, including annual maintenance costs, replacing an existing unit or down time with blockages and the replacing epoxy lining, the costs start to add up. These costs are only seen in the future, well after the initial costing is done, but you’re still paying for it and perhaps it’s at this point that you’re wishing you chose another solution?

Doomsday for Concrete?

It’s too easy for us in construction to continue doing “what has always been done” and instead take a big step forward to the future. Shift your thinking and consider more than just a concrete solution. Take time to learn more about alternative wastewater and stormwater tanks that can be as efficient in construction, if not more so. Lastly, consider the environmental impact that we  produce as an industry and how we can reduce it. If there are steps we can take to reduce that with products that are just as strong, durable and affordable over time, why would we not recommend and use these alternatives?

Considering an alternative to concrete? Get in touch today to discuss how we can help.