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Optimizing Concrete Grade for a Sustainable Structural Design in Saudi Arabia

Buildings and facilities undergo several stages: the product stage, the construction stage, the use stage, the end-of-life stage, and the recycling stage. The life cycle of any facility or building contributes to embodied carbon (EC) emissions. The product stage, also known as the cradle-to-gate stage (A1–A3), registers the highest emissions, estimated to account for 70% of the total environmental impact. The continuing population growth in Saudi Arabia necessitates urgent action to identify and implement solutions for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating environmental risks. This study investigates the optimal method to analyze the grade of concrete for specific structural elements (columns) in a particular work area, adhering to accurate and methodological standards outlined in the Saudi Building Code (SBC). The bill of quantities (BOQ) determined the amount of building materials for the structure considered in this study. Reliable embedded carbon coefficients (ECCs) for structural materials such as concrete and steel were determined following life cycle assessment principles. They were analyzed using the Inventory of Carbon and Energy (ICE; Version 2.0) and Global Warming Potential (GWP). The obtained values varied based on the components of each mixture. This study determined the cost of each concrete mixture and steel, selecting the optimal mixture based on both EC and material cost. Since the quantity of cement significantly affects EC emissions in a concrete mixture, it is essential to select appropriate plasticizers and concrete types. This study evaluated the C30, C40, C50, C60, and C70 mixtures. Among these, the C70 mixture demonstrated the best environmental impact and was the least expensive compared to the basic C40 mixture for the estimated quantities of concrete and steel. The estimated reductions in cost and environmental impact were 33% and 27%, respectively. This groundbreaking study paves the way for low-carbon structural design in large hotels across Saudi Arabia, offering valuable insights for future projects and contributing significantly to energy conservation.

Publication date: 22/03/2024

Author: Mohammad S. M. Almulhim

Reference: doi: 10.3390/buildings14040860

MDPI (buildings)


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