Concrete’s many inherent benefits, such as fire resistance, sound insulation, robustness and minimum vibration, are widely recognised. New cost model studies and research now add cost-effective construction and sustainability to that list.

Cost model studies are useful for design teams as they give the relative cost of different parts of the build and highlight the impact of frame choice on the cost of other elements. The headline figures also make interesting reading.

The studies highlight the cost advantages of concrete over steel for typical commercial and school buildings. They show that concrete can be up to 6% cheaper for commercial buildings. This cost advantage is compounded by a lead time of only 4-6 weeks for reinforced concrete compared with up to 18 weeks for steel. Similarly for schools the most economic concrete frame solution, the post-tensioned slab, was found to be 6% less expensive than steel frame solutions. At 65 weeks compared to 66 weeks, the concrete solution was also faster to build.

Concrete’s potential as a sustainable building material is also being increasingly understood and recognised. The ability of concrete to reduce the energy consumption of buildings in terms of reduced air conditioning and heating far outweighs its embodied CO2 footprint. With buildings producing some 50% of UK CO2 emissions, it is essential that the energy consumption of a building is taken into account when evaluating the sustainability of different construction materials. In addition, it is worth noting that concrete is the most local of all construction materials, adding to its sustainability credentials.

Ongoing programmes of product development and innovation will help realise the benefits of concrete construction still further. New formwork systems are addressing the safety issues of high-rise construction, new construction methods are increasing the speed, efficiency and performance, and new design and engineering thinking are meeting the challenges of today and the future. New Concrete 07 highlights what concrete can offer your next project.

Andrew Minson, Director, technical services, The Concrete Centre

New Concrete 07