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Concrete, the enemy of sustainable development? Not that much


An “ecological concrete”, here is what could surprise on behalf of this assembly of materials, generally pointed out as terribly energy-consuming and polluting. However, there are alternatives to cement concrete made from mineral materials: earthen concrete, using elements of plant origin, such as clay, hemp or flax.


A flagship symbol of the industrial revolution (but used since Antiquity in other forms), cement concrete in France reached its peak in the 1970s, vector of a certain idea of ​​efficiency, profitability, in short of economic prosperity. Thirty to forty years later, the parameters have changed; Climate in danger, economic crisis: concrete has a bad press. On paper at least, since with two-thirds of homes using it, this material is still by far the most widely used in the world.

Linen concrete, (maybe) the material of tomorrow

Cement concrete, from its production to its aging through its transport, embodies the nightmare of sustainable development: high energy consumption, massive emission of greenhouse gases, significant heat loss ... In short, a carbon footprint for the least painful.

And yet, the use of plant materials (clays, hemp fibers, straw, rice bark, etc.) offers an economical and much more ecological alternative to cement, with earth concrete or “natural concrete”. Easier to produce, earthen concrete is also much less interesting for the huge global cement concrete processing companies, which reign supreme in this gigantic market.

De - timid - initiatives have however been emerging in recent years, as in France, the world's leading producer of flax with 500,000 tonnes per year. A Caen research laboratory is working hard on the production of concrete based on flax fiber, just as effective as cement. Enough to relieve both a declining French flax sector, and offer a double economic and ecological revolution to French construction. Hopes or illusions to follow in 2016.

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