The Environmental Cost Of Rebuilding Concrete Structures


Rebuilding concrete structures has serious consequences for the planet. Concrete is one of the largest contributors of carbon dioxide emissions. The production of cement is alone responsible for about 5 percent of global carbon dioxide emission. Concrete also presents a large portion of demolition waste and construction, a third of all landfill waste. It is costly and difficult to recycle concrete; recycling also reduces concrete’s strength.

At the same time, concrete infrastructure plays a critical role in the development of an economy. For example, we know how important it is for a country to have state-of-the-art transportation infrastructure. In North America and across the globe, the construction industry has to build sustainable concrete structures in order to reduce concrete production. Constructing long-lasting and maintenance-free buildings, bridges, roads, and other concrete structures is the only way to reduce the environmental cost of rebuilding.

Concrete is widely considered as a stone-like, homogenous, and monolithic material. In reality, it is a complex combination of cooked limestone, sandy aggregates, and clay-like materials. It is critical to determine what makes concrete deteriorate so quickly without reaching its expected service life. The answer is steel reinforcement which is hidden but active inside. When corrosive agents penetrate through small cracks in concrete and reach the reinforcement, an electrochemical reaction occurs.

With one end of the steel bar tuned into a cathode and the other end an anode, the electrochemical reaction turns steel bars into rust leading to concrete deterioration. Rust increases the rebar size up to four time its original size. As a result of spalling, concrete fractures apart. When a bridge or a building becomes structurally deficient, it is either rehabilitated or rebuilt. Reinforcement corrosion in concrete causes cracking, reduction of bond strength, loss of serviceability and reduction of steel cross-section. Reinforced concrete experiencing corrosion not only indicates poor performance but, in extreme cases, loses its structural integrity.

We can conclude that the corrosion of steel reinforcement is the biggest reason why steel-reinforced structures fail to reach their expected service life. We need to change the way we recognize steel as a practical construction material. It’s about time we consider the environmental cost of building substandard concrete structures. We must act fast and avoid needless maintenance, pollution, public inconvenience, the cost to repair damaged concrete members, and the waste.

The history reveals the cost of short-term thinking. As a future-centric nation, we need to focus on building concrete structures that can stand the test of time.


Composite materials provide us with the opportunity to build sustainable, corrosion and maintenance-free structures that can withstand harsh environments for at least 100 years. The construction industry in North America and across the globe should now increasingly implement innovative GFRP technology to build long-lasting and cost-effective structures.


TUF-BAR is a top producer and seller of GFRP fiberglass rebar and accessories in North America. Our objective is to help the construction industry get rid of corrosion and other long-standing structural issues. Visit our website to learn more about our products and their applications!