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Concrete for the masses

Holcim Australia, one of the world’s most respected suppliers of concrete, aggregates (crushed stone, sand and gravel) and cement, has acknowledged that it must meet, if not exceed, increasing expectations and demands about sustainable business practices.

concrete Holcim has operated in Australia since 1901 under many familiar brands and recently expanded its presence in Australia after acquiring CEMEX’s Australian operations. Holcim recognises its important role in minimising the impact of its activities on the environment.

When extracting aggregates and sand, Holcim progressively restores the environment of the quarry before finalising the rehabilitation after quarrying has finished. One of the best-known examples is the Sydney Olympic rowing course for the 2000 Olympic games, created by the Penrith Lakes Development Corporation of which Holcim is a major shareholder.

What is concrete?

In its simplest form, concrete is a mixture of cement, aggregates (rock and/or sand) and water. The cement and water react in a chemical process known as hydration, binding the other ingredients together as the compound hardens. The resulting rock-like mass is concrete.

Other significant achievements of the Penrith Lakes Scheme are the planting of more than 40,000 native trees, the successful introduction of native fish, the restoration of heritage buildings, and the construction of an environmental education centre and an Aboriginal cultural centre.

Throughout its quarrying and manufacturing activities, Holcim Australia has rigorous management systems in place to minimise the possibility of impacts. For four consecutive years (2005-2008), the Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes (DJSI) acknowledged Holcim as having the best sustainability performance in the building materials industry.

Holcim’s range of standard concretes designed for residential applications, low-rise buildings, paving and driveways, are backed by tight quality control that brings a guarantee of strength and workability, as well as a long life.

Energy-efficient concrete

Concrete is a sustainable building material that is durable, low-maintenance, aesthetic, strong and cost-effective. The thermal mass of concrete can be harnessed in design to contribute to the energy efficiency of a building, making it cooler in summer and warmer in winter.

According to the peak industry body Cement Concrete & Aggregates Australia (CCAA), concrete makes a significant contribution to sustainability through its various properties and in its applications.

  • Concrete is fire-resistant, flood resilient, termite-resistant, robust and strong.
  • It is manufactured from abundant and readily available materials – cement, aggregates and water.
  • It is durable. Concrete structures are incredibly long lasting – we still have examples from Roman times.
  • It is inert and non-toxic. Its chemical composition is void of known carcinogens such as volatile organic compounds and formaldehyde.
  • It has high thermal mass, helping to reduce household and building energy consumption.
  • It reduces sound transmission – making for quieter homes and buildings.
  • It affords design flexibility. In its fluid or ‘plastic’ state, it can be moulded to just about any form.
  • A wide range of finishes can be achieved.
  • Its use can negate the need for additional finishing (eg plasterboard linings, painting or floor coverings) – supporting the important concept of dematerialisation.
  • It can be manufactured to a wide range of technical specifications to suit just about any application.
  • It is low-cost.
  • It is recyclable. Concrete can be recycled into road base materials for paving construction, or recycled as concrete aggregate.
  • It is manufactured in towns and suburbs Australia-wide, close to its markets, supporting jobs and reducing transport impacts.
  • The use of natural sand in concrete can be replaced by manufactured sand.