Durability and longevity, constituting a cost-effective and environmental advantage
Concrete is well known as the appropriate building material for durable construction, simply due to the longevity of concrete structures. This is pre-eminently the case in road construction: nearly all of the long-life pavements consist of rigid (concrete) or semi-rigid (asphalt on a cement-treated base or a lean concrete base) structures. With the growing interest in environmental matters, it is increasingly recognised that concrete is green in the wider sense and concrete pavements seem to have more advantages than only their long lifetime. The right way to compare materials regarding their sustainability is by conducting a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of a functional unit, e.g. a square meter of a pavement. Software tools have been developed to analyse and optimise environmental performances. For more economic comparisons, a Life Cycle Cost Analysis is the best technique to evaluate over-all-long-term economic efficiency for competing alternative investment options such as a concrete or an asphalt pavement.
It is clear that longevity plays a crucial role in a LCCA or/and a LCA of a pavement type. A long lasting concrete pavement does not require rehabilitation or reconstruction as often and thus less raw materials are consumed in the long run, energy is saved and congestion is reduced (with accompanying energy savings and reduction in vehicle pollutants). All these environmental and social benefits add up to greater long-term economic benefits to the public. In addition, well-designed and well-constructed concrete roads and highways hardly need any maintenance over their lifetime. That is why concrete options often appear to be the beneficial ones, even though the initial investment costs are much higher than the equivalent asphalt solution.
Other cement and concrete's credentials concern:
Safe and comfortable surfaces;
Techniques of soil treatment and land remediation;
Recyclability of concrete;
Use of low energy cements;
Lower fuel consumption for heavy trucks;
Reduced lighting costs and urban heat island effect;
No danger of leaching.