Sustainable Communities

Concrete Builds Greener Communities

Canadian municipalities face the ongoing challenge of building communities that meet the needs of their citizens today and the needs of future generations. The cement and concrete industries can help municipalities achieve their sustainable development goals.

The cement and concrete industries can assist municipalities to achieve the goals outlined under the Federation of Canadian Municipalities' Green Municipal Funding categories:

  • Sustainable Community Planning
    Create healthier, environmentally responsible communities
  • Brownfields
    Cost-effectively turn environmental liabilities into economic opportunities
  • Energy
    Contribute to the construction of energy-efficient concrete roads, buildings and infrastructure for alternative energy sources
  • Water
    Reduce storm water runoff through pervious concrete pavements; contribute to reliable storm water management; safely store grey water for reuse
  • Waste
    Concrete is a made-to-order product that generates less waste on the job site; it is durable, reconfigurable and at end of life it is reusable and recyclable
  • Sustainable Transportation
    Construct roadways and transit solutions that are safer, more cost-effective, built to last, require less maintenance and are more energy efficient

Building today with tomorrow in mind

What is the difference between Cement and Concrete?

Cement, an ultra-fine powder, is the critical ingredient that locks the sand and gravel together into an inert matrix – typically representing 9 to 14 per cent of a concrete mix.


For more than a century, the cement and concrete industries have stood up with Canadian communities through many challenges. We have a strong tradition of developing innovative solutions to address community needs. Today, the cement and concrete industries continue to introduce sound, new technologies to meet municipal social, economic, and environmental challenges and strengthen our towns and cities for generations to come.

The use of concrete can help municipalities achieve their short and long-term development objectives. Concrete can contribute to longer-lasting buildings, buried infrastructure, cost-effective roads, high-performance transit systems and bridges, reliable distribution of safe drinking water, safe and healthy storm and sanitary sewers, as well as greater energy efficiency in the workplace and at home.

The cement and concrete industries can also assist municipalities to achieve the goals outlined by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities under the six Green Municipal Funding categories: Sustainable Community Planning, Brownfield Development, Energy, Water, Waste and Sustainable Transportation.

Sustainable Community Planning

Committed To Sustainability

“The Canadian cement industry adheres to and promotes the values of the triple bottom line of sustainability (social, economic and environmental). In support of these values, the Cement Association of Canada, through partnerships in marketing, public affairs, engineering, education and technical support, seeks to advance the contributions that cement and concrete make to vibrant communities, a healthy environment and a competitive economy.”

Source: Canadian Cement Industry 2006 Sustainability Report

A natural partner

Partnerships are critical to any sustainable community. Good partnerships provide resources and bring a broader perspective to the project. The cement and concrete industries make natural partners for municipalities as they share a mutual interest in the success of their communities. With knowledge and solutions that can help communities achieve their goals of sustainable development, it makes sense to invite the industry to participate at the planning phase of any sustainable community.

Think globally…

Through the World Business Council for Sustainable Development – Cement Sustainability Initiative, Canadian cement companies have volunteered in a global initiative to address factors that affect global climate, enhance employee health and safety, reduce emissions and use fuels and raw materials responsibly.

…act locally

In Canada, cement and concrete companies work with communities and governments to build a strong society and economic prosperity, while helping to respect the natural environment.

Helping to plan development

Densification of urban cores and managed urban growth are municipal goals for which the cement and concrete industries can provide innovative solutions. Well-planned development can benefit greatly from longlasting, cost-effective concrete solutions in below-grade infrastructure, parking, roads, mixed-use buildings and structures.

Infrastructure built to last

Communities must consider the full cost of any infrastructure investment over its entire life when they make the initial buying decision – including costs of maintenance, operation and end-of-life disposal. As a sustainable building material, concrete performs very well on all of these criteria.

A long-term approach including Life Cycle Cost Analysis (LCCA) is the only means of addressing the infrastructure deficit in a responsible manner. LCCA provides a forward-looking decision framework that helps governments assess the lifetime costs of infrastructure, rather than merely considering the initial construction cost.



As a testament to the desire for walkable, vibrant places to live and work, many previously abandoned prime properties are being redeveloped. Often, the reason these properties have stood vacant for many years is that they are contaminated from previous industrial use. Environmental cleanup and investment in these properties can pay off. The cement industry has a cost-effective solution for remediation of contaminated sites, helping communities avoid or delay the costs of servicing new land.

Turning liabilities into opportunities

Cement Solidification/Stabilization (S/S) treatment technology can turn environmental liabilities into economic opportunities. This is an established technology for treatment of hazardous wastes for disposal, and in the remediation/site restoration of contaminated land. S/S is a cost-effective technology in brownfield redevelopment, since treated site waste can be safely shipped and disposed in a landfill or remain on-site re-used in subsequent construction.

How it works

The technology involves mixing cement into contaminated site soil, sediment, or waste. The cement chemically reacts with water in the material being treated, changing its physical and chemical properties. S/S protects human health and the environment by immobilizing hazardous constituents within the treated material, preventing migration of contaminants into the natural environment. S/S can treat a wide variety of contaminants in a broad spectrum of contaminated materials. Soil, sediment, and sludge impacted by both organic and inorganic contaminants have been treated successfully using this versatile technology.

A safe and cost-effective means of brownfield remediation

When used on-site, S/S eliminates the cost and hazards of off-site transport while improving physical site conditions and reducing the need for replacement fill for subsequent construction. In some cases, the S/S solution is available at half the cost of other treatment technologies or transporting the material off-site for disposal.

S/S has been used since the 1950s to treat radioactive wastes and since the 1970s to treat hazardous chemical wastes. Over the years, innovations in mixing methods and additives have extended the application of cementbased S/S to a greater variety of remediation site conditions and contaminants. S/S is increasingly used to treat contaminated soil and sediment while the material remains in-place (in-situ). In-situ treatment results in re-use of treated material contributing to the sustainable development of the site.



The Earth Rangers Centre, in Woodbridge Ontario, features nine 20 metre long concrete earth tubes. Buried below the frost line, these tubes pre-temper the air before it enters the building’s air-handling unit, significantly reducing energy requirements.

Seeking reliable alternative energy solutions

With cost fluctuations, increased awareness of greenhouse gas emissions and worries about supply, energy is a major concern among Canadians.

Communities are actively seeking new ways to heat and cool buildings and operate vehicles that can reduce their need for fossil fuels. Today’s solutions include passive and active solar energy, capturing methane from animal and organic waste for conversion into energy, wind power and the use of water from nearby lakes or rivers for cooling systems.

Natural heating and cooling

Concrete, an engineered stone, absorbs heat during the day and then releases it at night, as the building cools. New and creative building designs are emerging to make the best possible use of concrete’s energy-efficient properties, especially when combined with day lighting and energy harvesting technologies. Because of its thermal mass properties, concrete can be the perfect partner for passive solar energy absorbed through windows.

Concrete can help cool buildings, by means of tubes running from nearby water sources through the walls or floors of the structure to reduce room temperatures during periods of hot weather. It can also capture solar energy to heat in-floor or in-wall radiant heating systems embedded in concrete, creating a superior and comfortable energy solution.

Concrete pipes or earth tubes can also collect heat from the earth to contribute to energy requirements in cool times of the year.

Concrete: an ideal alternative energy partner

Concrete contributes to the construction and performance of many alternative energy sources. It is used as the base for wind turbines, to contain animal or organic waste and biomass for conversion into energy, for storage of solar energy, and for construction of hydro-electric dams and nuclear power plants.


Concrete was used extensively in the construction of the Canadian War Museum, Ottawa, Ontario. It was the material of choice to support a foot-thick covering of earth on the low-maintenance 10,684 m2 green roof that supports native self-seeding grasses. The roof provides greater thermal insulation than the minimum required by the building code and is one of the largest green roof systems of its kind in North America.


Municipal, regional and provincial governments often partner to seek efficiencies in optimizing the use of tax revenue. All levels of government share responsibilities for wastewater treatment and collection; managing storm water runoff; potable water treatment and distribution; watershed management; and grey water storage and reuse. Concrete provides excellent solutions for both source control and conveyance control in water management.

Concrete Choices for Water Management

Concrete is a safe and reliable means of handling wastewater for treatment, while preventing pollutants from seeping into the water table from the collection system.

Storm water management – tried and true

Storm sewers, culverts and special storm water management facilities constructed with concrete are built to last. Concrete drainage products are durable, reliable and quickly installed. They will not burn, corrode prematurely, deflect, move off grade to reduce hydraulic performance, or collapse under design loads. Joints are engineered and designed to resist both infiltration and leakage of water into the bedding and backfill. Concrete pipe and boxes are designed to last for generations.

Green roofs


Concrete presents a strong, seamless, impenetrable barrier ideally suited to supporting green roof technology. Long used in water containment structures, concrete provides the strength and durability required in green roof applications due to increased loads from soil, vegetation and water. As well, rigid concrete roofs ensure that specially designed drainage patterns in the green roof systems are maintained for the life of the structure.

Watershed Management

Naturally returning water to the water table

Pervious concrete paving can be used to create low traffic roadways, parking or walking areas that readily allow storm water runoff to return to the water table rather than channeling it into the storm sewer system. Since concrete is an inert material, it does not contaminate storm water.

Grey water storage and reuse

Excess grey water can be safely stored in communal collectors for reuse in irrigation systems and toilets, for instance.



Construction waste can be a major contributor to landfills. Because concrete is a made-to-order material, there is less waste on the job site.

Reusable, recyclable

Well-designed concrete structures are built to last and can be renovated to accommodate the needs of changing users.

Once a concrete structure has reached the end of its life, concrete is 100% recyclable. It can be crushed and reused as fill or for road base – thus reducing the need to quarry primary aggregate. Some precast concrete products can be reused.

Part of the Waste Solution

The cement industry advocates innovative waste management practices that include energy recovery. The cement industry has extensive global experience in energy recovery. Biomass, used tires, used oil, pre-sorted pelletized municipal solid waste, and other alternative energy sources can be used instead of nonrenewable fossil fuels in the manufacture of cement. The use of alternative energy sources contributes to lower industrial emissions to air, reduces demand on virgin raw materials, and offers an innovative waste management solution.



For both above and below ground transit systems, concrete’s durability and architectural flexibility make it an ideal solution.

Photo: Bombardier

As traffic congestion increases in our urban centres, the need for more effective public transit systems becomes urgent. New projects are being planned, designed and constructed across the country for a variety of transit modes, including light rail, heavy rail, urban bus systems, bus rapid transit and monorail. Each of these modes benefits from the use of concrete.

Engineers, owners, and the commuting public depend on concrete’s strength and adaptability to make transit reliable, enjoyable, and safe. Concrete plays a leading role in helping urban areas reduce congestion and consume less energy, thereby benefiting the environment.

A solution to rising road construction costs

Municipal transportation infrastructures across Canada suffer from the stress of escalating traffic. At the same time, the cost of petroleum products, a major price component of asphalt pavements, is causing concern about the potentially increased costs of building and maintaining roads. An alternative road surface material worth considering – concrete pavement.

Concrete, a path to sustainable development

Concrete is a rigid, energy-efficient, durable and sustainable material used for buildings, buried infrastructure, bridges and even sidewalks that will last for decades. What has been often overlooked is that concrete is also a cost-effective paving solution that is used extensively throughout the United States and Europe. As well, cities such as Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Windsor and Winnipeg use concrete pavement in a variety of applications, including high-traffic roads, intersections, and bus stops.

National Research Council of Canada research has determined that heavily loaded trucks use less fuel when traveling on concrete pavements, with savings ranging from 0.8 to 6.9%. Reduced fuel usage equates to reduced greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants.

Concrete uses less energy

The Athena Sustainable Materials Institute compared equivalent concrete and asphalt pavement designs for a typical Canadian high-volume highway from a Life Cycle Cost Analysis perspective. The report revealed that over a 50-year period, the embodied primary energy required to construct, maintain and rehabilitate an asphalt highway is three times higher than for its concrete equivalent. Embodied primary energy means all of the energy invested in bringing a material to its final product, including transportation.

Cost-effective concrete pavement lasts longer

Many municipalities are looking for ways to reduce the continuous repair and construction of our roads. Taxpayers are demanding better performance from the roads they travel daily and are less tolerant of disruptions, and the negative impact on our economy.

The real cost of building a road goes well beyond the initial cost of construction. Decision-makers should include the cost of maintenance, rehabilitation, reconstruction and salvage costs, as well as the cost of traffic disruption to taxpayers. Recognizing infrastructure as a valuable asset to the economic success of the municipality will lead to choosing concrete more frequently as a long-term paving solution.

Urban heat island effect

Large cities can be several degrees warmer than outlying areas in the summer, due to the heat absorbed by dark surfaces such as asphalt pavements. This temperature increase, known as the urban heat island effect, can be reduced by using concrete pavement because of its light colour and reflective properties.

Concrete can help municipalities achieve their short and long-term goals through longer-lasting buried infrastructure, cost-effective roads, bridges, water and sewage management solutions, and more energy-efficient buildings and homes

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