Concrete is one of the most extensively used materials worldwide — on average, more than two tons per year of the rock-like stuff is produced for every man, woman and child on Earth, making its use second only to water. And that vast amount of new concrete is responsible for somewhere between 5 and 10 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, making it a significant target for improvements.
To that end, MIT in 2009 established a research group called the Concrete Sustainability Hub, with support from the cement industry. Last month, the Concrete Sustainability Hub issued two major reports — one on concrete pavements, the second on concrete buildings — that examine in detail those products’ life-cycle costs, in both money and greenhouse gas emissions. The group’s principal researchers say these are the most comprehensive and transparent (all their data and assumptions are open) analyses ever attempted.