Beyond Traditional Concrete: Exploring Innovative Materials and Alternatives in Precast Concrete Manufacturing

A team of construction workers working together to create the perfect blend of concrete.

The construction industry faces environmental issues daily, particularly concerning the elevated carbon dioxide levels linked to concrete use.

Concrete, in particular, is an essential substance in constructing buildings and other projects that carry a substantial carbon footprint, so contractors must find more sustainable concrete alternatives.

These alternatives to concrete, including precast concrete structures, mitigate the environmental impact of conventional concrete, which means switching to more sustainable products will limit the impact of greenhouse gas emissions.

Why Contemplate Alternatives to Traditional Concrete?

Every industry continuously tries to improve its existing offerings, and the construction industry is no different, seeking ways to improve its process for manufacturing precast concrete. Some like to use the age-old saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” but there’s always room for improvement, especially regarding sustainability.

Every contractor is familiar with how traditional precast cement functions, but it is in the following situations that someone should consider finding concrete alternatives:

  • Durability: A concrete alternative could extend the lifespan of the project at hand
  • Productivity: Newer alternatives may have shorter setting times, leading to increased productivity
  • Reduced Carbon Emissions: More sustainable products will satisfy emerging low-carbon-related regulations

Some concrete alternatives do not require manufacturing in a new space: They will blend into the existing precast concrete production, thereby streamlining the switch.

Innovative Concrete Alternatives

The following concrete alternatives have many uses, ranging from large-scale corporate constructions to minor home renovations:

Blended Hydraulic Cement

Blended hydraulic cement is a material that contains a combination of hydraulic cement and one or several supplementary cementitious materials. Manufacturers can blend directly by adding the binding materials individually or having the cement supplier complete it. When the cement supplier blends the material, it produces a higher-quality product.

Limestone Calcined Clay Cement

Another alternative to traditional concrete is a combination of limestone, cement, and calcined clay, which is more sustainable because it can produce 30% to 40% less carbon dioxide emissions. However, it may have a slower setting time unless mixed with chemicals like sodium carbonate or calcium nitrate.

Alternative Cementitious Materials

Alternative cementitious materials (ACMs) are inorganic cement forms that can replace traditional and blended hydraulic cement. However, these materials don’t work in quite the same way. Factors to consider with ACMs include curing requirements, reaction times, and indirect test methods.

Calcium Sulfoaluminate Cement

Manufacturers produce calcium sulfoaluminate cement by heating gypsum, limestone, and bauxite. The material is well-suited for precast fabrication and use in cold-weather environments because it quickly gains strength within 24 hours.

Calcium Aluminate Cement

Calcium aluminate cement has been in use since the early 1900s. It has short setting times and gains strength quickly, making it ideal for precast applications, but it has a higher price tag than traditional precast cement, which ultimately limits its usability.

Magnesium-Based Cement

Manufacturers use magnesium oxide instead of calcium oxide to create materials that demonstrate high strength, durable bonds to inorganic substrates, and the ability to withstand sulfate, acidic, and freeze-thaw environments. Magnesium-based cements also protect against corrosion better than their traditional counterparts.

More Concrete Alternatives Than Ever Before

As long as the world continues looking for more sustainable products, the concrete industry will continue producing concrete alternatives that withstand the elements. For more information about these precast concrete alternatives, contact American Precast Concrete today.