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CONCRETE A more sustainable choice


BUILDING OUR COMMUNITIES IN THE AGE OF CLIMATE CHANGE The weather was once the worry of only farmers and parents dressing children for school. Today, climate change makes front page and business headlines. Stories of recent natural disasters and their impact on our economies have heightened everyone’s concern − and rightly so. A 2011 United Nations report on disaster risk reduction identified that losses from disasters are rising faster than gains made through economic growth across many regions. In Canada, the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE) predicted that by 2020, climate change impacts could cost the Canadian economy up to 1% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), or $5 billion per year. That cost could climb to $43 billion per year by 2050. If 2013 was any indication, these predictions appear accurate. According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, 2013 was the most expensive year on record for insurable losses in Canada, with $3.2 billion in weather-related claims. The 2013 Calgary flood alone is estimated to have cost upwards of $6 billion, including non-insurable losses. A 2012 report from the Insurance Bureau of Canada stated that “climate change is likely responsible for the rising frequency and severity of extreme weather events, such as floods, storms, droughts and fires since warmer temperatures tend to produce more violent weather patterns.”

Photo: Confederation Bridge, PEI & NB



The scientific research indicates that our climate will continue to change, with rising temperatures and sea levels, fluctuating rainfall and snowfall patterns, and more unpredictable extremes ranging from floods to droughts and freezing winters. The certainty of that reality has a direct impact on how we define and grapple with the concept of sustainability. While sustainability is most commonly understood in terms of reducing the immediate impact of human activity on the environment, climate change and other environmental and social pressures are illustrating that sustainability is an even more complex goal as we search for solutions responsive to a dynamic and changing world. As we strive to reduce greenhouse gases (GHGs) for example, we must also prepare for a world of more uncertain weather extremes wrought by changes to our climate that are by now inevitable.


MORE THAN A BUZZWORD We have been hearing a lot about sustainable construction over the past few years. Now “resilient construction” are the new buzzwords. “Resilience” has become a cornerstone of “sustainability”. When it comes to our communities, resilience can be defined as our ability to maintain structure and functionality in the face of turbulent internal and external change. More precisely, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) defined resiliency as the ability of any system (infrastructure, government, business and citizenry) to resist, absorb and recover from or successfully adapt to an adversity. Community functions decline swiftly as citizens respond to a disaster. A more resilient community can more quickly restart local services (utilities, businesses, schools) and adapt, as necessary, to a “new normal”. These communities avoid major loss or recover more quickly because they have taken measures to minimize a disaster’s impact. Those measures include: improved land-use decisions and building code implementation as well as the construction of resilient infrastructure, to name a few. The key to disaster recovery is not only to get essential services back up and running, but also to get people and their communities back to their daily routine – work, school, home-life, etc. That means buildings and structures must not only resist damage caused by adverse events, but must also be in a condition suitable for occupancy as soon as possible. For example, having schools that are operational after a major event helps create a sense of normalcy and mitigates the massive financial and emotional hardship on the community. While resilience and lowering our environmental footprint are both central to sustainability, they are often considered independently as two separate strategies that are sometimes at odds, involving trade-offs and a balance of priorities. Unfortunately, that balancing act is currently failing in many of our communities. The trend in Canada, especially for structures that are not owner designed, built, and occupied is to maximize profitability by simply satisfying the least stringent provisions of the local building code.

Top Photo: Argentia Project, Newfoundland and Labrador Middle Photo: Memorial University, Newfoundland and Labrador Bottom Photo: Édifice Léopold-Taillon, Université de Moncton, NB. Entrance design by Architects Four Limited, Pierre Gallant



THE MISSING LINK To date, most building code requirements have an emphasis on life safety, i.e., they do not aim to prevent major damage or total collapse of a build- ing or other infrastructure asset, but only to ensure that occupants can be safely evacuated prior to or during the event. However, excessively damaged buildings and infrastructure impede recovery in communities. The speed of a community’s recovery is determined in large measure by the resilience of the community’s infrastructure. Even in our best practice codes, in the form of “green construction” certifica- tion programs, the focus is almost exclusively on energy, material, water con- servation, indoor environmental quality and site selection/development. While these are important aspects of sustainable building design and construction, plans for resilience are not yet inherent in these programs. Communities built to last start with comprehensive planning, including stricter building codes that produce robust structures with long service lives. Photo: Detroit, USA

PLANNING FOR A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE The residents of more robust cities and towns experience major benefits from the overall improvements associated with resilient building practices. They include: fewer burdens on local services, a more stable local economy that provides consistent sources of money to run the municipality, and a more enduring legacy for future generations.

Concrete products are made of natural raw materials (stones, gravel, sand, cement) which are locally available almost everywhere. This helps minimize the whole lifecycle impact on the environment when compared with other construction materials. Additionally, almost 100% of a concrete building can be recycled, no matter how heavily reinforced.

Builders, architects, and designers have come to recognize that more durable structures also reduce the impact communities have on our planet. For example, multiple academic studies illustrate that the passive energy-efficiency benefits of concrete, via its thermal mass, represent gains in efficiency of up to 8% over other materials, with corollary benefits for reducing GHGs. Typically, this more than makes up for the energy and GHG impact of the cement and concrete manufacturing process. More importantly, and as many real world examples demonstrate, integrating concrete’s thermal mass as a design strategy and pairing it with passive and/or active radiant heating and cooling systems can magnify efficiency benefits by a factor of ten. Real world examples show this holistic approach yields energy-efficiency improvements in excess of 70% over the Model National Energy Code for Buildings

Innovations in the cement and concrete sector are further enhancing the lifecycle sustainability benefits of concrete. For example, in the last 20 years, the industry has reduced the energy required to make a tonne of cement by about 20%. Additionally, the recently introduced lower carbon cement — Contempra — reduces CO2 emissions by a further 10% compared to regular cement. If Contempra were to replace all cement consumed in Canada, it would save almost 1MT of GHG emissions per year. Other emerging technologies including carbonated concretes and related carbon capture processes promise to dramatically reduce the carbon footprint of the built environment.



When taking the broad view of sustainability, and acknowledging the realities of our future climates, concrete is a critical component of building safe, lasting and environmentally efficient communities. It is climate-friendly and climate-ready.

CONCRETE AND LEED & EPDs Since its inception, the LEED green building rating system has been used to reduced environmental impacts of the built environment. LEED has been a market transformation device affecting all sectors of the construction industry, including concrete production and construction. The system is based on four certification levels (silver, gold and platinum), allowing projects to earn points for environmentally friendly strategies employed during the design and construction process. Because of concrete’s versatility there are many applications where concrete can be used in a building project, from foundation and superstructure to sidewalks and parking lots. That means concrete can contribute to every credit category. An Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) for building materials can earn your products valuable credits within the LEED rating system and meet a growing number of procurement requirements for governments and industry. Concrete is an important component of these credits. Using concrete can influence 25 of the 55 LEED v4 credits and prerequisites and potentially contribute to as many as 74 of the 110 points available. Detailed information on the LEED v4 and project certification process is available at or www.nrmca.og/ sustainability. Top Photo: Nova Centre, Downtown Halifax, NS Bottom Photo: The Confederation Building, Charlottetown, PEI

Photo: LEED’s Building - Halifax Public Library, Halifax, NS



A LOW CARBON FOOTPRINT BUILDING MATERIAL FOR THE AGES Concrete products are integral to the sustainability and resilience of our communities because of their versatility.



Concrete products last decades longer than alternative building materials. Not only is concrete’s structural stability maintained for longer periods, it is non-combustible, preventing the spread of fire from one unit or one building to another. It is resistant to moisture and doesn’t rot or mold. And it is sufficiently strong to resist impacts, blasts and natural catastrophes like earthquakes, tornadoes and floods.

Because of concrete’s strength, sound attenuation, and fire resistance, concrete buildings can easily be converted to other occupancy types during their service life. Reusing buildings in this way can help limit urban sprawl and further contributes to the conservation of our resources and preservation of the environment.



The ability of concrete products to store energy (their thermal mass) helps moderate interior temperature conditions, allowing a more constant temperature both in cold and hot regions. It improves a building’s “passive survivability” in the event that services such as power, heating fuel, or water are lost — minimizing energy demands for the city as a whole and reducing the GHG emissions from heating and cooling energy.

Thanks to their durability, resilience, low maintenance requirements and energy-efficiency, structures built with concrete products reduce operating costs related to operational energy consumption, maintenance, and rebuilding following disasters. Insurance costs for concrete buildings during the construction and operating phases have also been shown to be significantly lower than for buildings constructed with combustible, moisture-sensitive materials.



Concrete products have intrinsic properties of acoustic insulation. This can help amplify sound within a space or dampen it between spaces. Concrete buildings can measurably reduce sound transmission between residential units, giving occupants more privacy.

Concrete products can be recycled as aggregate — for use as sub-base material in roadbeds and parking lots, for gabion walls, as riprap to protect shorelines or in other applications — or as granular material, thereby reducing the amount of material that is landfilled and the need for virgin materials in new construction.

EMISSION-FREE An inert substance when cured, concrete is emission-free and will not emit any gas, toxic compounds or volatile organic compounds.

VERSATILE While strong and functional when hardened, concrete’s plasticity when freshly mixed lets designers adapt it to whatever form, shape, surface and texture they can imagine. Innovations such as ultra-high performance concrete, photocatalytic concrete and pervious concrete are also enabling new and creative uses.



PRODUCED LOCALLY Concrete is typically manufactured within 160 kilometers of a project site, using local resources. This greatly minimizes shipping and pollution and makes a significant contribution to the local economy.

SUPERIOR CONSTRUCTION MATERIAL FOR MID-RISE BUILDINGS GLOBE Advisors recently conducted a (2015) study of the property insurance costs for wood frame and concrete midrise residential buildings on behalf of the Concrete Council of Canada, with a view to identify the risk factors affecting differences in insurance rates between the two building systems. The data for this report was drawn from the relevant published literature as well as interviews with industry experts under the condition of non-attribution. Construction insurance risks include, but are not limited to, fire, building envelope breaches (such as those from water), quality of materials, skill levels of contractors, security practices, and claims history. Risks for the operational phase primarily involve underwriter risks portfolios, strata and condominium operational practices, claims history and building management capabilities. While property insurance expenditures grew at 7.5% annually between 2007 and 2013, rate setting practices are generally not well understood by consumers, developers, building contractors and strata managers alike, which can lead to complications and financial strain when claims arise. This is particularly true for mid rise wood frame buildings, five stories and greater, that have only recently been approved by provincial and national building codes. The research for this study shows that the costs for insurance, maintenance and calamity repairs over the life span of a building carry major cost implications for developers, strata managers, and condominium owners.

Insurance premiums are determined largely on the basis of perceived risk – how likely it is that a customer or group of customers in a given area will make a claim, and how much it will cost. Download the study on the ACA website. Source: Study of Insurance Costs for Mid-Rise Wood Frame and Concrete Residential Buildings, GLOBE Advisors

THE RESILIENCE OF CONCRETE Consider this staggering fact: since the 1970s, property losses by decade have increased by more than 3500%. Our communities require proactive plans to mitigate and recover from disasters. Those plans must include conscientious construction methods using durable, resilient and sustainable materials. Concrete is an example of such a material; it is designed to absorb large static and dynamic loads and resist damage due to snow, flooding and fires. Wall, floor, and roof systems constructed of concrete products offer an unsurpassed combination of structural strength and wind resistance. Add hardened exterior finishes for walls and roofs and a home or business will have the best combination of strength and security available.

Concrete products are resistant to wind, hurricanes, floods, and fire. As a structural material and building exterior skin, it has the ability to withstand nature’s normal deteriorating mechanisms as well as natural disasters. Properly designed, concrete products are resistant to extreme loading conditions such as earthquake and blast loads. And concrete is GHG efficient, offering thermal mass based energy efficiency to buildings, low carbon pavements and durable infrastructure with low maintenance and long service life.



Board of Directors PRESIDENT Scott Flemming, Ocean Contractors Ltd. VICE-PRESIDENT Jamie Reid, Osco Concrete SECRETARY-TREASURER Steven Peters, Euclid Admixture Canada PAST PRESIDENT Alex Kennedy, Quality Concrete Inc. NEW BRUNSWICK Chris Miller, City Concrete Ltd Paul Miller, Warren Ready Mix NEWFOUNDLAND Jason Coish, Capital Ready Mix Ltd. Darren Cross, Humber Ready Mix NOVA SCOTIA Kent Nickerson, South Shore Ready Mix Kevin Nickerson, Quality Concrete Inc PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND Jamie Reid, OSCO Concrete Bernard Keefe, CRM Ready-Mix Ltd. CEMENT INDUSTRY Mark Munro, McInnis Cement Inc. CEMENT ASSOCIATE Jessica Waite, Stantec Consulting Ltd.


Atlantic Concrete Association 301 - 3845 Joseph Howe Dr. Halifax, NS, B3L 4H9 P. 902.443.4456 F. 902.404.8074 E.

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