Climate impact of concrete use in Dutch construction. A comparison for 1990, 2010 and 2017

This study considers the climate impact of concrete and reinforcing steel use in 2017, 2010 and 1990. We conclude that the climate impact of concrete use in the focus years 2010 and 2017 is lower than in focus year 1990. In 2017, the impact of concrete use was lower than 2010, but this is due to a lower total amount of concrete mortar and concrete products used in the Dutch market.

On a national scale, climate impact per m3 was almost the same in the focus years 2010 and 2017. The climate impact per m3 of mortar and per m3 of concrete product (the average in the Netherlands) decreased, but 1 m3 of concrete product has a higher climate impact than a m3 of concrete mortar. The unchanged result per m3 of concrete is because proportionally more concrete products were produced in 2017 than concrete mortar in 2010.

The higher climate impact of a m3 of concrete products compared to concrete mortar is a concern for the transition to a climate-neutral and circular economy. Precast concrete products are easier to reuse than in-situ poured concrete mortar.

The trend of concrete products being increasingly used instead of concrete mortar could therefore continue. This could cause further increase per m3 of concrete (on average), but it could also bring benefits:

  • reuse of concrete products produces higher climate benefits than recycling of materials;
  • in some applications, concrete products require less concrete than concrete mortar, thus reducing the overall use of concrete in the Netherlands.