Many people don't think of concrete as being eco-friendly, but it's actually a highly sustainable building material that is increasingly used in a variety of ways in modern construction projects. For instance, polished concrete floors are cropping up in new homes all across the country and is used to create fire-safe zones around homes that are located in geographical locations that are vulnerable to seasonal wildfires. Following are seven reasons why concrete may be the most eco-friendly option for your next home construction project.

Concrete Is Reflective

Concrete's light-colored, reflective surface reflects the sun's radiation, therefore absorbing minimal amounts of heat. It's a far better choice for outdoor paved surfaces than dark-colored materials such as asphalt, particularly in densely populated areas that suffer from the effects produced by urban heat islands. Concrete is an excellent choice for roofing materials, walkways, driveways, patios, and retaining walls.

Concrete Is Durable

Concrete lasts much longer than organic building materials, meaning that it needs to be replaced far less often -- the life span of concrete is two or three times longer than that of many common building materials. Because it will also not burn, rust, or rot, and requires only an occasional cleaning with water and a mild detergent to keep it at its best, its maintenance won't release toxic chemicals into the environment.

Pervious Concrete Retains Storm Water

Nonporous paving materials, including impervious concrete, can block the infiltration of storm water back into the soil. This can cause an imbalance in the local ecosystems that can result in flash flooding, erosion, pollution, and depletion of local water tables. However, pervious concrete is available that is made using a series of sponge-like voids that allow storm water runoff to pass through quickly, replenishing the water supply.

Concrete Production Involves Minimal Waste

Concrete can be produced according to scale, meaning that the exact amount needed for each individual project can be made prior to pouring. Concrete that has served its purpose can easily be recycled and used as aggregate, road base, or backfill. The main raw material in concrete is limestone, which is one of the planet's most plentiful minerals. Concrete can also be made from waste materials such as silica fume and slag cement from steel mills and other manufacturing plants.

Concrete Has Superior Thermal Mass

Concrete may not absorb heat as quickly as asphalt, but it retains it longer once it's absorbed. It's superior thermal mass makes concrete highly resistant to changes in temperature. Homes with concrete foundations, walls, and floors often have significantly lower heating and cooling costs.

Concrete Doesn't Harbor Pathogens or Allergens

Besides their attractive appearance, durability, and low maintenance properties, polished concrete floors don't harbor pathogens and allergens the way that other flooring options often do. Polished concrete offers a nonporous surface that is easily and quickly cleaned, and unlike carpeting and certain types of wood flooring, it doesn't provide an environment that is conducive to the growth of mold, mildew, and other fungal pathogens.

Concrete Can Be Repurposed 

Besides being crushed and used as aggregate in concrete production, broken chunks of old concrete can also be repurposed just as they are. Referred to as "urbanite," pieces of concrete gleaned from demolition sites are showing up on residential properties as fire pits, planters, retaining walls, and as stepping stones. Chunks of concrete are also being used to create a flagstone effect in walkways, driveways, and patios. Broken, unwanted concrete is usually free to those who want to haul it away from the demolition site.

When you're seeking eco-friendly building materials for your next home improvement project, don't forget to consider concrete products