Concrete. Just thinking about that word makes me bored. But in areas where we dread monotony, MIT foresees opportunity. Intending to innovate infrastructure in urban areas, the innumerable researchers, developers, engineers and academics over at MIT, along with those from around the globe, will flock to Cambridge to brainstorm ideas for civic advancements starting with the world’s most popular building material: concrete.

Concrete is one of the – if not the sole – most widely used construction resources anywhere. Producing it in such mass quantities, as well as conditions created by it (road stiffness and roughness, for example), causes measurable effects on the environment. Finding viable solutions to issues like these are, of course, MIT’s forte.

The 2014 International Concrete Sustainability Conference is slated to take place from May 12 through May 15, in conjunction with the MIT Concrete Sustainability Hub Showcase. The conference, MIT Concrete Sustainability Hub Communications Coordinator Lauren Clark told BostInno in an email, “will provide learning and networking opportunities on the latest advances and tools for sustainable concrete manufacturing and construction.”

Subsequently, the CSHub Showcase will demonstrate the effectiveness of the conference by highlighting “the first five years of findings from MIT research in concrete science, buildings and pavements,” Clark added, “and that also present goals for the next five years.”

We asked Clark for some examples of practical applications for concrete innovation. Turns out, the MIT CSHub has been solidly covering the concrete game in three specific disciplines: pavements, buildings and concrete science. 

But in areas where we dread monotony, MIT foresees opportunity.

Those who frequent the road likely aren’t privy to the amount of damage being inflicted on their vehicle and the environment. The CSHub has created life-cycle assessment tools for pavements that provide a comprehensive picture of the environmental and economic costs of pavements over their entire lifespan.

In terms of buildings, the CSHub is generating analyses for designers and developers to better assess a structure’s strength and resiliency. As is the case with pavement, a concrete building can wreak havoc on energy consumption and the environment when not properly tended to. To combat this, Clark told BostInno, CSHub has compared the performance, environmental impact and cost of wood-frame, concrete and steel structures over their entire lifespans. Researchers found that concrete homes use eight percent to 11 percent less energy than wood-framed houses.

As for concrete science, researchers have accurately mapped the first-ever molecular model of cement paste. While this may not have you doing cartwheels and backflips down the hall, it means that they’ll be able to better examine and test ways of making concrete more durable while possibly reducing the amount of cement needed to make concrete binding.

Boston is currently experiencing a luxury residential boom and is exploring ways to make middle-to-low income housing a more lucrative commodity.

Perhaps the answers to Boston’s housing crisis lies in concrete. Just make sure to pull them out before it dries.

Image via Shutterstock