Concrete, Concrete, Concrete

1 Feb 2021

Published in: British Precast - Annual Review 2020 

As we reflect on 2020, we have learnt that things can change and quickly. The Concrete Centre started the year with its usual events programme, a Concrete Elegance lecture, technical webinars, and a successful exhibition at Futurebuild at the ExCel in London but just a few weeks after Futurebuild, the ExCel was a Nightingale hospital and the country was in lockdown.

The Concrete Centre events programme was quickly moved online and delegate numbers and visitors to our website rocketed. To respond to the changing needs of designers, The Concrete Centre launched the Sustainability Series – a mix of live events, Q&As, workshops as well as an online hub of useful resources including on-demand webinars and guidance at

This year has also seen an abundance of three-word slogans, a reminder of the importance of keeping messages simple. The Concrete Centre has always aimed to provide best practice guidance in easy to use formats, written in plain English and this year we have launched several new resources for designers. New bitesize videos and webinars provide a 10-minute update on topics are now available on YouTube and LinkedIn as well as on the website.

Also launched in 2020, a new version of The Concrete Centre tool – Concept. This simple tool for designers enables the comparison of concrete frame options based on embodied carbon, cost and/or programme. Concept v4 only requires basic Excel skills, and a full user guide is provided to enable users to input their own cost and carbon data -

Looking forward to 2021, the specification landscape will continue to change at a pace that is unlikely to slow. Our society and built environment face challenges that are complex, and part of the response will be the expected updates to building regulations, the Building Safety Bill, the Environment Bill as well as carbon benchmarking being created by influential specifier groups such as RIBA, LETI and GCB.

The current focus is on saving carbon now – a shift from minimising operational or in use carbon, where thermal mass plays a beneficial role, to a focus on embodied carbon – the carbon associated with the manufacture of a product. The focus going forward should be the whole-life credentials of new construction.

These are the impacts over a building’s lifetime and beyond, including materials extraction, product miles during construction, operation, maintenance, and recyclability following demolition. Few would disagree with the merits of this comprehensive approach, although it is not a practice routinely applied in the design and construction of new homes and buildings – at least not yet.

The scope also needs to be broader than carbon impacts alone. Determining a building’s whole-life sustainability also involves improving the length of its lifetime. Keeping resources in use for as long as possible is an important tenet of the circular economy. The key is to use locally available, responsibly sourced, non-combustible construction materials – so concrete, concrete, concrete.

Written by - Claire Ackerman, director at The Concrete Centre

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