There’s plenty of sand in the world, but not all sand can be utilized for construction materials. Sand is an important component of concrete, but the methods utilized to extract the best sand for this job can leave the environment in shambles. Therefore, it is imperative that the construction industry makes a push for more sustainable construction processes that reduce the amount of raw materials needed to complete jobs.
In part one of this two-part series, the Houston contractor attorneys at Cotney Law explained why dredging beaches and river beds negatively affects the environment while reflecting on the construction industry’s unsustainable need for sand. Now, we will continue to discuss this topic while considering solutions to this pressing issue.
Desert Sand is Useless for Construction
There are numerous deserts throughout the world that are covered with sand; so, why is the construction industry only tapping into beaches and river beds? This sand is largely useless for construction due to years of erosion polishing it down into smooth, rounded grains that lack the necessary grit and angular composition to effectively make concrete. This issue doesn’t exist in beaches or river beds.
A Cycle of Excessive Excavation
The OECD estimates that the world uses 27 billion tons of sand a year. They expect this to double to 55 billion tons by 2060. If you factor in the volume of sand and gravel used for land reclamation purposes such as coastal developments and roads, this number rises sharply to an estimated 40 tons. Roughly 20 tons of sediment are produced naturally each year, so our needs are clearly superseding availability.
Scientists are now working together to find solutions to this problem including:
- Utilizing more efficient building methods
- Finding suitable substitutes for cement and sand that don’t compromise the durability and structural integrity of concrete
- Using more recycled materials from demolished buildings
Researchers at Bath University have proposed one solution—replacing ten percent of the sand used to create concrete with plastic. They believe that by doing this, they can significantly reduce the amount of sand needed to be excavated to create concrete.
“There’s a serious issue with plastic waste,” said Dr. Richard Ball, a member of Bath University’s architecture and civil engineering department. “Anything we can do to address this and find alternatives to putting plastic in landfill is welcome.”
A similar development out of Australia is using recycled plastic to fortify concrete. This cuts costs and lessens the environmental impact of alternatives like traditional steel mesh. This technology, created by engineering firm Fibercon, uses 100 percent recycled plastic to cut the amount of CO₂ produced by as much as 90 percent. As researchers continue to develop these new technologies, our raw material construction will decrease drastically.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.