In 2009, the Portland Cement Association (PCA) and MIT teamed up to establish the MIT Concrete Sustainability Hub. A report released by the hub, Methods, Impacts, and Opportunities in the Concrete Building Life Cycle, is the result of a study regarding the 60-year life-cycle assessment of homes constructed primarily of concrete, compared to more conventionally constructed wood-framed homes.
In its environmental assessment, MIT researchers found concrete homes produce lower greenhouse gas emissions than current best practice code – compliant wood-frame residences throughout a 60-year service life.
Concrete homes did have a higher embodied global warming potential (GWP) associated with the pre-use phase of LCA when raw materials are harvested and turned into construction materials, transported to the site, and assembled into the finished home. However, this phase accounts for only about 2 to 12 percent of the overall global warming potential for the life of the home. For the 60-year period of the study, houses constructed with insulated concrete forms have 5 to 8 percent lower GWP than current code compliant light frame wood houses, based on greater thermal mass and higher R-values. Researchers found similar results when evaluating multifamily residences.
Commercial office buildings built with a concrete structural frame produce slightly less greenhouse gas emissions over a 60-year service life than commercial structures built with steel frames, based on the results of the comprehensive MIT assessment.