Concrete Compass: Material efficiency
Navigating to useful resources and guidance
This Concrete Compass helps navigate to information related to the material efficiency of concrete and techniques in design and construction that ensure waste is minimised and concrete is used efficiently and effectively.
- Material Efficiency - This document provides information on the material and resource efficiency of concrete and masonry at each stage of their manufacture, design, construction and demolition.
- Whole-life Carbon and Buildings - This guide covers: Concrete specification; Lean building design; Operational energy; Reuse; End of life.
- Economic Concrete Frame Elements - This book acts a pre-scheme design handbook for the rapid sizing and selection of reinforced concrete frame elements in multi-storey buildings designed to Eurocode 2. The handbook is intended to give designers safe, robust and useful charts and data on which to base their scheme designs.
- Post-tensioned Concrete Floors - Post-tensioning concrete increases the many benefits associated with a concrete framed building. The purpose of this publication is to widen the understanding of post-tensioned floor construction and show the considerable benefits which include minimum storey heights, rapid construction, economy, maximum design flexibility, minimum number of columns and optimum clear spans.
Concrete industry: action on waste
Concrete is a net user of waste and consumes 271 times more waste than it sends to landfill. In 2018 the industry sourced 33.5% of its energy from materials diverted from the waste stream and the aim is to increase this even further. More information on the concrete industry's actions on reducing waste can be sourced from the latest annual Concrete Industry Sustainability Performance Report.
Lowering carbon by reuse of structure
Concrete's inherent robustness, flexibility and minimal need for additional finishes mean that concrete buildings are particularly well-suited to the ethos of reuse.
The Standard Hotel, London: the concrete structure,originally built in the mid-70s as an annexe to Camden Town Hall, was repurposed, adapted and the exterior cleaned to house an upmarket 266-room hotel.
Northampton International Academy: repurposed a derelict Royal Mail sorting office, reborn into a 2,200 pupil school. Article in Concrete Futures: Remixed.
Focus on: Lowering embodied carbon structures using lean design
The versatility of concrete results in a wide range of concrete frame solutions that play their part in reducing the amount of materials needed to construct our built environment. Some examples include:
Although ribbed slabs are deeper than flat slabs, the amount of concrete and reinforcement is considerably less, with a saving of about 20% in the volume of concrete and 10% in the weight of steel. This means smaller loads, resulting in slimmer columns and less extensive foundations. Ribbed slabs can also be post-tensioned, which reduces the concrete volume by a further 10%. Read more in 'Return of the Rib' article in Concrete Quarterly, summer 2019.
Post-tensioned (PT) slabs are one of the most efficient forms of construction, as they enable the two main construction materials to work in the most efficient way. Significant savings can be made in comparison with conventional reinforced concrete, equating to about 20% of the concrete and 50% of the steel in a flat slab. Read more in 'High Tension' article in, Concrete Quartely, spring 2020.
Concrete waste is minimised during precast concrete manufacture due to efficient processes in the factory and the control of materials. As precast concrete elements and systems are typically made to order this reduces waste in production. Post-production, the robustness of the product reduces the risk of waste through damage or degradation in transport or storage. Read more in Offsite Concrete Construction.
Visual concrete, thermal mass
Thermal mass describes the ability of certain building materials to absorb heat, providing inertia against temperature fluctuations. Exposed soffits and fair-faced concrete reduce the need for internal finishes, whilst optimising the benefits of thermal mass.
There are a number of Concrete Centre guides to help designers with how to design concrete buildings which make the most of concrete’s visual aesthetics and its thermal mass benefits.
Webinar on thermal mass coming soon
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