The future of construction materials

By |  April 10, 2017

The aggregate industry is becoming more aware of the importance of sustainability, and speakers at a Construction Climate Challenge seminar during ConExpo-Con/Agg 2017 called for a coordinated industry value chain analysis to move sustainability forward. Titled “Reducing Carbon in Infrastructure Construction,” the event addressed issues such as calculating the impact of building materials and the potential for cutting emissions of construction equipment.

The Las Vegas seminar was moderated by Dr. Bryan Staley, president and CEO of the Environmental Research & Education Foundation. Staley discussed the complexities of calculating the environmental impact of building material choices. He discussed how manufacturing processes, construction quality, transportation and material longevity all affect the environmental impact calculation, adding to the difficulty of accurately determining the optimal building material choices.

“Even using recycled materials, while intrinsically beneficial, doesn’t always lead to reduced emissions,” Staley says. “Thankfully, models used to estimate emissions are becoming more sophisticated, leading to greater accuracy and the ability to accommodate site-specific optimization of emissions and cost.”

The future of construction materials will also be impacted by the future of transportation. An NBC News report detailed a number of new transportation innovations on the way, and it may have hinted at their effects on the construction materials market.

The report says autonomous cars will be able to communicate their movements with each other over short distances, interact with traffic lights and other transportation infrastructure, and fully take over driving responsibilities. These technologies, the report says, could result in “slimmer lanes” and a dramatic change in the downtown urban landscape with few parking lots, as autonomous cars find parking in less populated areas after dropping off passengers. “No longer needed, the numerous parking garages scattered through a city could be reclaimed as green spaces.”

Other changes involve the road surface itself. Many states, the report says, are now experimenting with high-friction surface treatments – aggregate bound to the road with epoxy — to increase friction on wet roads. Also, piezoelectric and solar panels could be integrated into road surfaces to serve a variety of functions.

Only time will tell how these developments will affect aggregate specifications and demand, but they are sure to have an impact.

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About the Author:

Darren Constantino is an editor of Pit & Quarry magazine. He can be reached at

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