Sustainable Construction in Concrete - A Greener Future

Concrete Contractor Editor's Letter

I recently returned from the Greenbuild International Conference and Expo in Boston, Mass. The show was full of companies and manufacturers offering products and services to bring sustainability to building projects of all sizes and types. From the planning stages through construction, to furnishing interiors and managing a building's water and recycling during its lifetime, the show had something for everyone involved in building green.

The show educated me on many sustainable features and systems outside of the concrete industry. For instance, a new office chair from Herman Miller includes 42 percent recycled content; at the end of the chair's life 95 percent of its parts can be recycled. Several paper companies offer new models of paper towel and toilet tissue dispensers that help reduce paper waste. And Armstrong offers a ceiling recycling program that keeps construction waste out of the landfill and saves contractors the hassle and money associated with shipping and disposing of waste.

I saw a lot of general construction products that could be potential tools for many Concrete Contractor readers, including Bluebeam PDF Revu which allows contractors to take notes on building plans and share those documents electronically between the office and the field.

I also saw a host of products and systems familiar to Concrete Contractor's readers like concrete polishing, insulated concrete, environmentally friendly concrete coatings, recycled glass for decorative concrete applications and even a recycled porcelain aggregate called EnviroMODE.

Despite their diverse offerings, all the companies I visited at Greenbuild offered the same message - making sustainable choices in creating the built environment makes sense. Why not save energy? Why not save paper? Why not allow contractors to better communicate with the office from the field? Why not use more recycled material in a product? Why not recycle more waste and keep it from ending up in a landfill?

As 2008 comes to a close, many of you will be happy to put the financial woes of the year behind you. But don't be apprehensive about the year that lies ahead. Most people in the industry agree construction will take a turn toward the positive sometime in the 2009. And with the opportunities opening up in sustainable construction, those companies that educate themselves and embrace the products and systems designed for building green will grow stronger in a future that's sure to grow greener.