A comparative cradle-to-gate life cycle assessment of three concrete mix designs

Michael W. Tait, Wai Ming Cheung

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Citations (Scopus)
4 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Purpose: The concrete industry faces challenges to create concrete mix designs that reduce negative environmental impacts but also maintain high performance. This has led to ‘greener’ cementitious materials being developed which can decrease the use of traditional Portland cement (PC). This study intended to carry out a ‘cradle-to-gate’ life cycle assessment (LCA) on concrete mix designs containing different cementitious blends. Methods: The aim of this study was to obtain the overall environmental impact, with a particular focus on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions of three concrete mix designs: CEM I (100 % PC content), CEM II/B-V (65 % PC content, 35 % Fly Ash (FA) content) and CEM III/B (30 % PC content, 70 % ground granulated blast furnace slag (GGBS) content). Evaluations of the three concrete mixes were performed using ‘SimaPro 8’ LCA software. A comparative cradle-to-gate LCA of these mixes has not currently been explored and could present a new insight into improving the environmental impact of concrete with the use of secondary materials. Recommendations from this work would help the industry make key decisions about concrete mix designs. Results and discussion: Results show that Mix 2 (CEM II/B-V) and Mix 3 (CEM III/B) could potentially be taken forwards to improve their environmental impacts of concrete production. With respect to optimum mix design, it is strongly recommended that GGBS is selected as the addition of choice for reducing CO2 emissions. FA does still considerably improve sustainability when compared to PC, but this work proved that inclusion of GGBS environmentally optimises the mix design even further. Advantages of using GGBS include lower CO2 emissions, a substantial reduction of environmental impacts and an increased scope for sustainability due to the higher PC replacement levels that are permitted for GGBS. Due to mix designs enabling a higher contribution of GGBS additions, it would also indicate an increased positive effect regarding waste scenarios. Conclusions and recommendations: The main contribution of this work demonstrated that concrete can be produced without loss of performance whilst significantly reducing the negative environmental impacts incurred in its production. The results obtained from this work would help to define the available options for optimising concrete mix design. The only material variations in each mix were the different cementitious blends. So, by determining the best option, a platform to make recommendations can be established based upon cementitious materials.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)847-860
Number of pages14
JournalThe International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment
Volume21
Issue number6
Early online date5 Feb 2016
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2016

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