Concrete has continued to evolve ever since its invention. Originally created thousands of years ago, it was used by the Romans to deliver impressive structures including Trajan’s Market and the Colosseum, which are still standing today.
However, today’s concretes are seeing greater performance and properties than ever before. Given the scale of the material’s widespread use it’s easy to understand the drive for innovation, which is helping us adapt to the changing needs of our society.
The UK concrete industry is making significant investment in research and development to expand on its potential. Already, high-performance concretes that are lightweight, ultra-thin, thermally insulating or water permeable are helping architects and engineers to shape a safe, exciting and sustainable vision of the future and use less primary finite resources.
For example, new high-strength concretes are having a real impact on modern building design – particularly in taller structures. Some of these concretes have almost twice the strength of those being used only 15 years ago, meaning less material is required overall to construct the core of building.
Similarly, innovative lightweight concretes that use lighter aggregates can help to cut the weight of a slab by 30 per cent without reducing its strength.
High-strength and lightweight mixes therefore have better much better material efficiency – or simply the ability to do more with less.
Using these concretes not only results in thinner, lighter buildings with more spacious interiors but the reduced weight also means less material is needed for their foundations, which in turn helps to lower carbon emissions.
The concrete industry has also been working towards a clear strategy to reduce its environmental impact for over a decade, with innovation helping to reduce the material’s carbon emissions by 30 per cent since 1990.