Concrete and concrete products offer social, environmental, economic and other benefits in housing as well as in the development of infrastructure for human settlements. These benefits are set out in a leaflet entitled Sustainable Concrete for Human Settlements, published by the Cement & Concrete Institute (C&CI).
Compared with new, sophisticated and relatively expensive alternative construction technologies, concrete remains one of the most cost-effective and durable building materials.
In infrastructure it can be used in the construction of roads and pavements, for storm water drainage, culverts and bridges, as well as in many other applications. Concrete lends itself to labour-intensive construction methods, creating sustainable, low-skilled job opportunities.
In housing, concrete is used from the foundations up. The C&CI leaflet highlights that proper planning and design – including correct orientation, the rationalisation of design to suit the dimensions of concrete blockwork, appropriate sizing and placement of window openings, and adequate eaves overhangs, among other factors – will ensure that homeowners enjoy all the inherent benefits that concrete offers.
As well as being one of the most durable and cost-effective options for the foundations and floors in a home, concrete is a high density material that acts as a thermal reservoir in appropriately designed houses. This means that it can contribute to moderating indoor temperatures, keeping the house cooler in summer and warmer in winter.
When it comes to higher density multi-storey housing, suspended concrete floors, cast in-situ or precast to specification, provide structural integrity and where precast floor slabs are used they can accelerate the speed of construction.
Modular concrete masonry blocks offer a cost-effective, labour-intensive and low-maintenance walling solution and concrete roof tiles similarly, provide a long-lasting low-maintenance roof covering on any home.
A further benefit is that homes built with products like these that are recognised in the community as products that will last, instil a sense of pride among the homeowners.
Adéle de Lange, technical marketing consultant for human settlements at the C&CI and the Concrete Manufacturers Association (CMA), says, “Where concrete’s natural qualities are harnessed in conjunction with best practices and quality construction techniques, concrete can contribute to both the short- and long-term sustainability of human settlements. As a result, it is possible to improve the quality of human settlements across the full spectrum of the property market and to enhance the quality of life for all.”
De Lange is a professional architect and offers technical assistance and advice on the use of concrete and concrete products in human settlements. At the C&CI, building and construction professionals and contractors also have access to a wealth of information in the institute’s Information Centre.