It is popular at the moment, to speak of shame, like for example flight shame. All that CO2 and so on, and yes, that is a consequence and we will have to bear the consequences. It is then misused to suggest to people that they can redeem this, because , after paying , someone might plant a tree somewhere. Which only leads to maintaining the original product, for example flying, with untaxed fossil fuels and CO2 pumped directly into the high atmospheres.


Similarly, I recently came across ‘concrete shame’. That is, someone from the concrete world confessed that it was starting to bother him a bit. But yes, what to do. As a concrete man?

I do have some problems with concrete, but not with the material itself. I have described it before: materials are not sustainable or unsustainable. Materials are just materials. ‘No material is without fault’, I would almost say. Or : ‘no material is guilty without being proven guilty’.

The bottom line is, materials and raw materials are what they are. What makes them sustainable or unsustainable, is what you use them for.

If, for a given function, there is a material application with less environmental impact than planned, then you should choose the lowest environmental impact. And otherwise you should be ashamed, indeed.

I am talking about material use here. Before that, of course, there is the question of whether you have to deliver the function anyway; there are things we can just scrap. Don’t execute, don’t build. But given that something has to be built or realized, the lowest impact for a given performance must be the starting point. And sometimes that can be concrete. In some civil engineering applications, alternatives are sometimes very difficult. ( except not building, do we really need ‘fly overs’…?)

In a study project we once examined all kinds of alternative low rise housing foundations. And it remains difficult to meet all the requirements without concrete (or masonry) and to avoid long-term problems. Only one really serious option emerged, and that is to build above ground, have the columns stick through the floor and make small point-like foundations. With the current floor insulation, this is quite doable. If you then build lightly, in wood for example, then those columns can be placed on small stelcon plates in a watertight footing. And perhaps there is a bio-based alternative to stelcon plates to innovate. By the way, that principle is nothing special in many cultures historically. (Except for the stelcon plates, for which they used large stones). With the current regulations, however a ground anchor is needed, because of possible wind loads. But that aside.

And that brings me back to the point of (concrete) shame. So that is incorrectly worded. There is no such thing, so I could also reassure the concrete guy. At most, there is concrete-application-shame. In the case the same function could also have been achieved with alternative materials or solutions, with lower environmental impact as a result. If that had not been considered, calculated and possibly chosen, then, in that case, shame is more than justified…. !

Certainly, the concrete guys also need to be able to forgo concrete once in a while, to not use is it or offer it. Just like the steel, aluminum, brick and even wood guys. If it’s not necessary or can be done differently, with less impact, don’t do it, or face shame: Application Shame.

By the way, I don’t think we need or should be constantly ashamed at the detail level, for using concrete in a special case or even a ‘one time’ flying. ( when there is no obvious alternative).

What we should really be ashamed of is if we don’t get it right at the front, in one go, for everyone. In that respect, there is plenty to be ashamed of, where we make the wrong choices: as voters for parliament, , or subsequently as politicians. Especially those. They are at the front where things have to be arranged. Where choices have to be made. that put us on the right track from the start. And who do not do that, or half, and thus make stinking wounds. Who refuse to make real choices and corresponding rules: Regulation Shaming. That is the real thing to be shamed of.

Author: ronald rovers