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The Embodied Life Cycle Global Warming Potential of Off-Site Prefabricated Concrete Products: Precast Concrete and Concrete Pile Production in Korea

The impacts of concrete on global warming through its use in structures such as buildings and infrastructure must be identified and better understood, as concrete is known to have a very high global warming potential (GWP). However, in contrast with ordinary on-site constructed reinforced concrete, GWPs of off-site factory-made prefabricated concrete products such as precast concrete (PC) and concrete piles that are widely used in construction are rarely evaluated, owing to the complicated manufacturing processes that make the determination of greenhouse gas emission difficult. In this study, the embodied life cycle GWPs were derived for PC and pretensioned spun high-strength concrete (PHC) piles to enable precise assessment of the global warming impact of concrete structures and the concrete industry of Korea. The determined embodied GWPs of PC and PHC piles were 1.77 × 10−1 kg CO2 eq/kg and 1.87 × 10−1 kg CO2 eq/kg, respectively. As a result, both prefabricated concrete products were determined to have high GWP due to input materials, such as cement rebars, while the GWP contributions of the off-site prefabrication processes were low. Moreover, the embodied GWPs of both prefabricated concrete products were significantly higher than those of ordinary reinforced concrete, and the impact of both products on global warming was found to be approximately 4% of the impact of the Korean concrete industry. This indicates that it is necessary to consider the impacts of the PHC pile and PC industries when assessing the impacts of greenhouse gas occurring in the concrete industry at the national level. It is expected that these findings will be widely used to obtain a more accurate assessment of the impact of concrete structures and industry on global warming.

Publication date: 13/10/2023

Author: Hyunsik Kim

Reference: doi: 10.3390/buildings13102590

MDPI (buildings)


This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 870292.