The Three R's Of Concrete

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Zach Fite

Concrete, It's all around us. Our homes, workplaces, churches, schools, hospitals, roads,  bridges, and even our infrastructure all contain some component of concrete. Concrete has been around for thousands of years and has built many nations with amazing architectural feats accomplished. Now, although it may feel like some of the infrastructure in the United States is thousands of years old, modern concrete has only been used for about 150 years in the U.S. Most of the concrete construction in the U.S has taken place only in the last half century.

One of the most interesting things about modern concrete is although it has been used for thousands of years we are currently working with the most advanced version of the material itself. Modern concrete is readily available for use in commercial, agricultural, industrial or residential settings. The versatility of modern concrete is unmatched in functionality and design. Additionally modern concrete has made significant leaps in dependability due to understanding the chemistry of the product, benefit of additives, aggregates, and manufacturing practices.

The benefits that this product can provide are almost countless. But let's not ignore the significant environmental impact the concrete industry produces. According to Watts (2019) “After water, concrete is the most widely used substance on Earth. If the cement industry were a country, it would be the third largest carbon dioxide emitter in the world with up to 2.8bn tonnes, surpassed only by China and the US.” If this statistic is accurate and trustworthy, what conscious measures can be taken to reduce the environmental impact that the concrete industry produces?  Can we place stricter regulations on the manufacturers? Would placing stricter regulations on the manufacturer cause harm to the small businesses in the industry, and have a negative impact financially for hundreds or thousands of families? Can we limit the amount of product specific manufacturing facilities can produce? Could this action cause the cost to skyrocket and limit availability or delay projects?  What action steps are attainable and sustainable in the long run, twenty, fifty, or hundred years from now?

I am no environmental expert by any means, I do not have the answers on how these action steps can be met or attained. But I do have an idea on how we can reduce the environmental impact right now, yes right now! In my nearly decade long career in the concrete inspection industry I have completed scans on thousands of projects. Some projects are new construction, some projects are renovations and some are just concrete integrity scans. If you attended any educational institution within the last 40 years you may be familiar with the “Three R’s:” Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. Although these are some great tips for life, I have come up with my own “Three R’s:” Radar, Repair, and Renovate. What does this mean?

RADAR - Advanced concrete requires advanced technology. Currently, we have the capability and most advanced technology to perform concrete inspections that can provide answers to your questions. Ground penetrating radar (GPR) allows for experienced users to provide the answers to the questions you may have about your project. GPR and other concrete inspection tools can provide a significant amount of information to allow you to determine the best path for your project such as: rebar, rebar diameter, consolidation, thickness, voids, post tension cables, utilities within or below a concrete slab or deck, corrosion, and integrity.

REPAIR - With the capability to determine and identify potential conflicts or defects in the concrete. You now have the option to make informed, efficient and cost effect decisions. The best option may be to repair a defect compared to rebuilding new.

RENOVATE - The accuracy of a comprehensive concrete inspection and information that a detailed report can provide will allow you to accurately identify potential conflicts or defects along with the integrity of your building, bridge, or structure. Not only is renovation much more environmentally friendly, the cost is immensely less. I was recently on a project where the discussion of demolition of an existing building & building a new building was taking place, which would have left them with a 150 Million dollar price tag after all is said and done. I spoke with a project manager on the project who was pushing for renovation over rebuild and they eventually made the decision to have the building inspected to see what they were working with in the first place. Not only did they decide on renovation, they saved a 100 year old building with so much history, and allowed significantly less environmental impact over demolition and cut the project cost to about 12 Million dollars! I was thrilled to have a small part in that project.

Consider repairing, renovating, and having a concrete inspection performed on your next project!

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