Concrete Compass: Health and wellbeing
Material selection of the building fabric is only one part of the many considerations necessary in the design of buildings to support the health and wellbeing of its occupants. There are, nevertheless some important areas of positive contribution that the use of concrete can provide.
This Compass points towards the range of resources produced by The Concrete Centre to assist in the detailing and design of building using concrete and masonry to support and enhance resilience, health and wellbeing through its use in the built environment.
A summary of the benefits of concrete for health and wellbeing is provided in this bitesize recording.
‘How we want to live’ is a technical article exploring health and wellbeing in housing design and its future evolution .
The ‘Feelgood Factory' publication incudes a report on the rise of occupants’ wellbeing up the design agenda and examples of how concrete contributes to making us happier and healthier.
Measurement and standards for health and wellbeing
Healthy, resilient homes and buildings using concrete and masonry
This webinar provides an overview of the various requirements, standards of assessment and accreditation related to the provision of health and wellbeing through the design of new buildings. It also explores how concrete and concrete products can be used beneficially through long-term performance. View now.
Health and Wellbeing in BREEAM
This document provides detailed guidance for achieving credits in BREEAM new Construction 2014 using concrete, including the Health and Wellbeing Section.
As the UK experiences rising temperatures, addressing the risk of overheating in new homes is crucial, and is now a requirement of the Building Regulations. The use of thermally-massive materials, together with shading and night-time cooling, is a long-established strategy for passive cooling in warmer climates. Further guidance can be found here. The Concrete Centre also recently supported the publication of the FHH’s guide on meeting Part O.
While thermal mass helps provide thermal comfort by reducing peaks in the temperature, it can also help provide comfort in colder conditions, particular when coupled with good thermal performance of the building enclosure in terms of insulation, reduced thermal bridging and airtightness. Guidance on improving thermal comfort aligns with our guidance for providing energy efficiency through fabric energy performance, with numerous resources listed in the Energy Efficient Buildings Compass.
Noise control is essential requirement of the Building Regulations, which stipulate minimum standards for acoustic performance in dwellings. The inherent mass and damping qualities of concrete mean that good sound insulation is easily and simply achieved using concrete floors and walls. Guidance on the acoustic performance of concrete, is found on this webpage, with links to acoustic test results of concrete framed buildings.
Detailing guidance on How to achieve acoustic performance in masonry homes can be found in this technical publication.
Consideration of fire safety in construction is, of course, an essential minimum requirement of the Building Regulations for all buildings, but is also a requirement during construction. In most cases, concrete does not require any additional fire-protection because of its built-in resistance to fire. It is a non-combustible material (i.e. it does not burn or produce smoke), and has a slow rate of heat transfer.
Concrete ensures that structural integrity remains, fire compartmentation is not compromised and shielding from heat can be relied upon. Refer here for further guidance, including the publication Concrete and Fire Safety.
The use of concrete as a structure and surface finish can support the provision of good indoor quality. Poor indoor air quality can be created by presence of indoor pollutants, such as VOCs and formaldehyde, including those emitted from materials used in construction, including fixtures and finishes.
Unlike other building materials, concrete does not require additional fire treatments or preservatives to meet minimum fire or durability performance. Concrete is an inert material, not associated with ‘off-gassing’. It contains no VOCs or formaldehyde and does not harbour allergens. If a surface sealant is required for concrete, low or no-VOC options are available. Further details are provided on the Home Quality Mark page.
The safety and mental health impacts of flood events are well documented. Flood resilient construction uses methods and materials that reduce the impacts from a flood event, ensuring that structural integrity is maintained and the need for drying out and cleaning is minimised following inundation and before reoccupation.
Contemporary concrete and masonry structures are inherently robust, with little or no susceptibility to water damage, offering good long-term solutions requiring limited resource input as a result of water peril. The following resources provide further guidance:
• 'Flood Resilience Starts at Home' article in Concrete Quarterly magazine, summer 2020 – Summary of benefits of property level flood resilience
• Flood resilient homes webpage - including a summary of construction solutions recommended in British Standard BS 85500: Flood resilient construction
• Concrete and Flooding publication
• Flood resilience webpage
Biophilic design is a concept related to occupant connection to nature and the processes of the natural environment, to improve health and wellbeing and is part of the scoring available in the Well Standard but its principles are indirectly included in other health and wellbeing assessments.
The impact of biophilic design on material selection can be grouped in a few ways - the use of naturally-occurring materials; use of shapes and pattern inspired by nature; and avoiding the feel or sense of artificial material through for example - smell, sense of enclosure, sound and permanence.
More guidance on biophilic design and concrete can be found here:
The webinar ‘Creating concrete with a natural appearance’ provides guidance on how to achieve concrete with a layered, natural appearance including rammed concrete and use of colour and texture. The topic is also covered in this Concrete Quarterly article: ‘For Sedimental Reasons’ in spring 2019 issue.
Ways of achieving complex curves in concrete is explored in the technical article: ‘Go with the flow’ in Concrete Quarterly Winter 2015.
Concrete, as a key contributor to the built environment, is often seen as the antithesis to nature-based solutions but, in fact, concrete structure plays an essential role in supporting the integration of nature into our towns and cities including the provision of intensive green roofs and buried infrastructure.
Access to nature is also facilitated through concrete’s supply chain, with the widespread restoration of quarries. The Compass focused on Biodiversity brings together a wide selection of resources related to the role UK concrete plays in supporting biodiversity and the natural environment through manufacture and use.