Reasons why concrete is the building material of the future

Concrete seems to be the building material of the future and according to Daniel van der Merwe from Leaf Architects, there has been an unprecedented growth in one of the world’s oldest building materials.

There are many cool trends developing in the world of concrete. As a construction and decorative material, it is becoming increasingly popular.

7 reasons why concrete is the building material of the future:

  1. Sustainability: Concrete has high thermal and structural performance qualities, and it is long lasting and durable. The development of additives continuously evolves in terms of performance to allow concrete to be a truly contemporary material.
  2. High-strength material: Steel, polypropylene, and carbon fibre technology in combination with admixture allows for thinner structural walls, slabs, and columns with a higher loadbearing capacity. They can be pre-casted as ultra-thin skins or used as an element of insulating factory-made sandwich panels which are lightweight and cost effective. New generation admixtures allow for other innovations such as self-compacting concrete, waterproof- and self-healing concrete.
  3. Variety of colour options: Colour options are growing by the day. Pigmented concrete allows us to create vibrant colourful buildings, with pigmented plaster, self-levelling flooring screeds and pigmented concrete wall or polished concrete floor options which requires no maintenance, and which will not fade or peel unlike traditional paint or other material applications.
  4. Recyclability: legislation makes the dumping of building waste expensive or in some cases not building waste is allowed to landfill sites. The technology of recycling and crushing concrete and reusing it as aggregate in new concrete mixes is becoming common practice. The un-hydrated cement particles in old, crushed concrete allows for a higher strength. This translates into less cement having to be used which reduces the cost.
  5. Retrofitting concrete: We are pushing the boundaries of innovation with concrete as a material, unlike traditional construction methodologies and materials such as bricks and wood. Retrofitting of buildings have replaced demolition largely and adapting buildings to different uses makes concrete and ideal material to create new infill, extension, and structural strengthening opportunities. Concrete is one of the oldest building materials in the world and with infrastructure worldwide in dire need of being upgraded, and with population growth and the need for new infrastructure, concrete technology assists to make these possible.
  6. Technology: The high demand for warehouses and large buildings have seen recent developments in the installation of floors and slabs by using pre-stressing of steel elements prior to casting. This further reduces the thickness of structural slabs and allows for the possibility to cast seamless (jointless) floors that will not crack and can future-proof warehouses for robotic use. 3D printing is becoming more common, and this creates amazing possibilities, even for remote controlled construction using drone and robotic installation technology.
  7. Cost-effective: The development of cementitious products is going through a renaissance and many new products such as concrete decorative wall tiles, countertops, baths, basins, and other precast industrial products are being developed for the construction and home decoration industry. The cost of construction is only one third of the actual cost over its life-span, with the rest being spend on maintenance. As a developer, you must factor in the maintenance of a building in the development. Concrete creates the opportunities for no maintenance and lower energy costs due to its high thermal massing performance qualities. This makes it extremely attractive to property owners as a material of choice.

Worldwide trends

Van der Merwe predicts an increase in buildings and urban environments worldwide which integrate landscape and planting elements into the architecture and urban spaces. With advanced crystalline waterproofed concrete technology, vertical forests, and buildings with landscaped balconies, using trees and plants to create living walls and living roofs are possible and cost effective. These exciting new building typologies are evolving due to the performance of new generation cement and concrete mixes.

Full acknowledgement and thanks go to www.leafarchitects.co.za for the information in this editorial.

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