Climate change ‘may shorten concrete’s lifespan’

14 October 2014

When climate change comes for Boston, many expect it to come in the form of rising tides and massive storm surges that will sweep Logan Airport into the Atlantic.  The city is already beginning to plan its defense, with proposals for “amphibious architecture,” levees, storm baffles, and pumping stations.

But a new study out of Northeastern University suggests that for a dense coastal city like Boston, a more immediate vulnerability may lie in something we’re not even considering. It’s not rising seas that will get us first; it’s collapsing concrete.

Untold tons of concrete make up the city’s buildings, bridges, roads, and parking garages. As solid as it looks, reinforced concrete is vulnerable to long-term corrosion and decay. Two researchers, civil engineer Matthew Eckelman and graduate student Mithun Saha, realised that new projections of rising temperatures might have implications for the lifespan of Boston’s concrete buildings and set out to calculate just what exactly those were.

By Kevin Hartnett

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