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Sustainable industries: construction


Construction, factories, railway lines, roads and many other things we rely on, are a big part of the modern world. Construction creates a lot of waste, greenhouse gases and uses a lot of valuable materials.

Concrete uses a lot of natural resources – sand, gravel and water – and it relies on cement as a main ingredient. Cement, an ingredient of concrete, creates 8% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Concrete is also the second most used substance on earth (for construction) — the first is water.

Construction companies lose a lot of money because of climate change. Bad weather, worsening storms, and other changes stop construction and cause expensive delays. Climate change also means we will use more concrete to make things, as concrete is heavier, harder and better at making buildings that will last in big storms and other extreme weather conditions.

Finding new materials or new ways to make things like concrete is key to creating sustainable construction.

Green buildings - two modern, high-rise concrete buildings covered in plants

Image attribution: Dominique on Adobe Stock

Dangerous waste

Another big environmental problem is what to do with old tyres. Tyres:

  • contain toxic chemicals
  • last for many hundreds of years without breaking down
  • are also very flammable – they catch on fire easily and the fires are hard to put out
  • are dangerous in landfill because they are a fire risk.

Sustainable solution

RMIT researchers have found a way to use recycled tyres in concrete. By adding recycled tyres and other waste materials to concrete, they have made stronger and longer lasting concrete. This means the concrete is not only a better quality product, they're also removing waste and recycling a dangerous substance, removing it from landfill. Finding methods like this to recycle, reuse, upcycle and reduce waste in construction is extremely important for sustainable construction. 

Mohammad Islam with the concrete made with recycled tyres.

PhD scholar Mohammad Islam with the team's concrete made with recycled rubber from used tyres. Credit: David Caird, Herald Sun

For more information, visit the RMIT Library subject guide on Sustainability - Construction - Design