Concrete blocks make a significant contribution to the built environment and will result in buildings that are resilient, safe, strong, adaptable and have a long lifespan compared to other forms of construction.
Where concrete blocks come from
The materials that are used to make concrete block products come from inorganic natural and recycled sources. Most of these materials require only minimal processing or chemical treatments to render them suitable for use, thus concrete blocks have a relatively low embodied energy value, unlike highly processed materials such as polymer-based products.
Concrete blocks are locally sourced. Most of the UK demand for concrete blocks can be met locally, so there is no need to import materials from thousands of miles away – thus omitting the potential environmental impact from shipping for example. The local availability of aggregates makes for low carbon footprint deliveries to the factory. In fact, it is quite common to see rail and rivers being used to transport millions of tonnes of aggregate every year in the UK. Local sourcing also supports regional economies and employment.
Sustainability in the block factory is about improving resource efficiency, reducing waste and ensuring that environmental management systems, compliant to ISO 14001 for example, are maintained. Over 80% of the CBA members’ production is covered by the Environmental Management standard ISO 14001. The efficient manufacturing and curing systems employed in the manufacture of concrete blocks means that a closed-loop system is in operation – one which minimises any outgoing waste materials and results in no waste effluent streams.
During their service life, concrete blocks will effectively re-absorb much of the carbon dioxide that was used to create them; a process called carbonation. . During use, the higher thermal mass of masonry constructed buildings results in less severe seasonal temperature fluctuations within the building. This means reduced reliance on additional heating or cooling systems to maintain comfortable temperatures and the associated energy consumption when compared to lighter weight framed or panel built alternatives.
The choice of block in a building or structure means that resilience is built in. The inherent properties of the material help it to withstand all manner of weather conditions, infestations, flooding & fire for example. Quality of life is a clear priority in sustainability, as is ensuring that a built environment that will last for successive generations – not just for today – is constructed. Concrete block products offer significant sustainable benefits in these areas.
As part of British Precast, the producer members of the Concrete Block Association are signed up to the British Precast Sustainability Charter and are subject to annual verification audits of manufacturing and data. This data is compiled into Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) to enable performance benchmarks to be set and annual reports published. Member companies are required to set objectives and targets to continually improve their sustainability performance.