Concrete Sustainability Hub, MIT, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Concrete is fundamental to modern civilization; this demands an open discussion of its impact. For facilitating this discussion, we commend The Guardian. However, the article Concrete: the most destructive material on Earth fails to adequately consider concrete’s benefits.
First and foremost, concrete enables prosperity. Through its affordability and availability, concrete creates the infrastructure that has allowed millions to live safe, sanitary, and prosperous lives.
While it is easy for wealthy countries who have benefited from concrete to now condemn it, concrete remains a vital means of social and economic transformation for developing nations. To limit the development of these nations is unethical.
The key is to ensure that this development is sustainable. Fortunately, when considering its long-term and systematic impact, concrete becomes a sustainable solution. Concrete buildings are highly energy efficient, which reduces their lifetime emissions, while concrete roads generate fewer vehicle emissions. Concrete also endures extreme hazards events, and its use mitigates millions of dollars in damage each year. An effective response to climate change will therefore require concrete.
Despite criticism, concrete is still crucial to our civilization. Instead of abandoning the most important construction material in human history, we ought to expand our understanding of it and utilize its full potential to enable sustainable development.