No More Concrete Foundations!
We use nothing more than we use concrete except water.
By volume, it is what we produce and use more than anything else except water. There's more concrete, by mass, than there are plants and trees of all kinds on the planet. That's not a problem if it is a good thing to be using.
But it's not.
In 2018, we produced 4 billion tonnes of cement (used to make concrete) and this production accounted for 8% of worldwide carbon dioxide emissions. That 8% came from making a single building material. And we are using more of it every year, not less.
10% of worldwide industrial water use comes from making concrete. Almost 2% of total water being withdrawn goes to making concrete. As we keep going, by 2025, 75% of the water we need for concrete production will be coming from places that just won't have enough water for general use let alone making concrete. Also, the pH level of the water is changed through the manufacture and building process. After it's been used and the buildings are up, where has all that waste water from the supply chain gone?
Beyond this, what goes into or comes out of making concrete itself is categorically bad. Some of these things are:
Lime (really damaging to skin and when leaked into water and the soil is really damaging to everything else)
Heavy Metals - Thallium, Cadmium, and Mercury (each volatile and highly toxic)
More Heavy Metals - Nickel, Lead, and Chromium (each absolutely fantastic for pumping back into the earth for long-term health)
Then there's the fuel we use to prepare cement. We have to generate a lot of heat for a long time overall in massive furnaces. We have to burn the energy equivalent of burning 159 litres of crude oil to make 1 ton of clinker in making cement. There's about 75% clinker by volume that goes into making cement on average. We produce over 4 billion tonnes of cement a year. So, we burn the energy equivalent of burning 477,000,000,000 (almost half a trillion) litres of crude oil in making cement every year. That much crude oil would fill about 400 large stadiums to the brim.
And the concrete itself after it's all made then damages topsoil, among a slew of other problems it causes. There really is much more to say about how it's bad and how it affects us. But the point of all of that is that it's just a nasty thing and we need to stop making and using it. We need a serious culture change whereby we ask, every single time it comes up, how can we avoid using concrete? What can we use instead?
We can live in a healthy, clean world. We have the knowledge and ability to do that. So let's do it.
In the case of residential construction going up a couple floors, we can replace concrete with screw piles for foundations.
And you know what?
That's a start!