Precast Concrete Contributions to Sustainability
“Sustainable development is that which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

~ United Nations Brundtland Commission Report (1987)


A growing global population is straining the finite resources available on the planet. Sustainability seeks to balance the economic, social, and environmental impacts, recognizing that population growth will continue. Sustainable development brings this evaluation to the design and construction industries, which have significant potential to reduce the negative impact of human activities on the environment.

Demand for sustainable development

According to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), buildings in the United States consume nearly 10% of the world’s energy, and over 30% of the total energy and more than 60% of the electricity in the United States. The U.S. Department of Energy reports that 51% of electricity comes primarily from the burning of coal, a fossil fuel that produces significant greenhouse gases during combustion.

With energy costs increasing, and concerns about environmental impact growing, the U.S. government is adopting green building programs. In addition, an increasing number of states are offering tax benefits for green public buildings, and large corporations are moving toward sustainable design for their facilities to reduce operations and maintenance costs.

Green Building

The U.S. Office of the Federal Environmental Executive (OFEE) defines green buildings as those that:

  • demonstrate the efficient use of energy, water, and materials
  • limit impact on the outdoor environment
  • provide a healthier indoor environment

Studies show that green buildings offer improved air quality and more access to daylight in addition to energy and cost savings. The USGBC estimates that green buildings cost 8% to 9% less to operate, and have a 7.5% greater building value.

Premium for Green Building

The USGBC cites an initial cost premium of anywhere from 0% to 2% for green buildings in the United States. As project teams become more experienced with building green, these costs should decrease. Generally, a 2% increase in construction costs will deliver a savings of 10 times the initial investment in operating costs for utilities (energy, water, and waste) in the first 20 years of the building’s life.