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Critical Sustainability Impacts from Polymeric and Concrete Inputs to Construction



Barbara C. Lippiatt


This paper analyzes environmentally-extended I-O tables to identify and quantify the sustainability impacts of most concern for broad categories of polymeric and concrete materials used in the U.S. construction industry. The extended I-O tables trace an industry’s production throughout its supply chain, enabling consideration of multiple environmental impacts across all life-cycle stages of production, installation, and use. One year’s worth of U.S. construction activity, exclusive of operating energy use, was shown to generate 5.81 % of the U.S. economy’s annual environmental impacts, with the industry’s polymeric inputs contributing a 0.35 % share and concrete inputs a 0.44 % share of the economy’s impacts. This analysis identifies the top environmental impacts for each material in terms of both construction industry outputs (buildings and civil infrastructure) and polymer/concrete industry inputs. The most impactful polymer/concrete products are further examined to identify the environmental impacts of most concern. Taken together, these multidimensional results can help industry experts target polymer and concrete measurement science research toward areas most likely to yield the greatest sustainability improvement.


concrete, construction industry, input-output analysis, life cycle assessment, polymers, sustainability measurement


Lippiatt, B. (2012), Critical Sustainability Impacts from Polymeric and Concrete Inputs to Construction, Other, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD (Accessed June 25, 2024)


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Created February 29, 2012, Updated February 19, 2017