The long debate of the better product of concrete vs. asphalt roads has been long been a topic for environmentalists, engineers, and car manufacturers.
Concrete roads are highly durable and more environmentally friendly as compared to asphalt roads. However, asphalt paving costs far less than concrete paving. Also, asphalt road provides a little better safety of the vehicle against snow and skidding.
How are Concrete vs. Asphalt Roads made?
Concrete is made using aggregate (like crushed rock and sand), along with cement and water. The cement acts as the binder in concrete, holding the aggregate together. As the mixture dries, it forms a stiff, unforgiving solid that is prone to cracking and breaking, especially if the surface beneath it is not perfectly smooth.
Like concrete, asphalt is made using aggregate. Its binder, however, is bitumen, a dark, sticky substance derived from crude oil. When roads, parking lots or driveways are built using asphalt construction, hot asphalt (bitumen mixed with fine aggregate) is poured onto a bed of heavier aggregate and then pressed into it with a steamroller. Once the asphalt cools to the surrounding air temperature, it is strong enough to withstand automobile traffic. While asphalt is extremely hard and durable, it offers enough flexibility to accommodate imperfections in underlying surfaces, a feature that concrete sorely lacks — this is where we come in!
Roads play a very important part of any nation’s infrastructure. So, when looking at concrete vs. asphalt roads, their construction and maintenance, and the vehicles that travel over them, we must look at how the roads consume large amounts of produced energy. This energy use results in atmospheric emissions, the reduction of a non-renewable resource, and other environmental impacts. Any reduction of the lifetime energy use associated with roading, even if only by a small percentage, will have significant positive implications for sustainable development.
Concrete roads are durable and safe. They are considerably less prone to wear and tear defects like rutting, cracking, stripping loss of texture, and potholes that can occur with flexible pavement surfaces. This low maintenance requirement is one of the principal advantages of concrete pavements. There are well-designed concrete pavements that have required little or no maintenance well beyond their 40-year design lives. Less maintenance also means fewer traffic delays, a huge advantage on some of our already congested highways.