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.

Key Guidance

  • 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.
  • Cost and Carbon: Concept V4 - Already a widely used and trusted conceptual design tool, to compare costs of concrete frame options, the recently updated Version 4 now includes a ranking in terms of embodied carbon. The addition of the embodied carbon comparison means that this software tool can now help designers assess solutions and understand the influence of frame choice on cost, programme and embodied carbon.

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.

Examples include:
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:

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.

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Whole-life Carbon and Buildings

YouTube library

Thermal Mass, AKT II, Bennetts Associates & Arup

Thermal mass in concrete and masonry can help us to tackle the challenges of a changing climate. We've been working with AKT II, Arup and Bennetts Associates to bring this essential technical concept to life. The result is pretty cool.

On-demand webinar

Material Efficiency and Concrete

This webinar provides guidance on whole-life waste minimisation and material efficiency when designing with concrete and masonry.