Insight #6: Resilience
Concrete offers resilience in an uncertain future
AT RISK FROM ALL
TYPES OF FLOOD
Aresilient built environment is one that shows long-term durability, has low maintenance requirements and is resistant to extreme weather events, while remaining adaptable to changing uses. Resilience has become an increasingly important design factor as climate change has moved up the agenda, and issues such as summertime overheating and extreme flooding have come to the fore.
Such factors underline the need to consider projects on a whole-life basis for environmental, economic and social impacts. Concrete is capable of being fit for purpose for thousands of years with relatively little maintenance in a wide range of conditions. It can be used in aggressive and exposed environments such as on brownfield sites and for coastal defences, and can help to mitigate, or even avoid, the impact of extreme weather events. The inherent thermal mass of concrete is also key to providing future-proof buildings.
By moderating temperature extremes, it combats overheating and maintains a comfortable internal environment, particularly when combined with active or passive cooling. Another important performance benefit of concrete is that it does not burn. This is due in the main to cement and aggregates which, when combined within concrete, form a material that is inert and, importantly for fire safety design, has relatively low thermal conductivity.
This means that the effect of fire is limited to the surface zones of the concrete with the middle of the element often unaffected. This resilience to fire ultimately provides life and property safety. Research and development has established the best means to ensure concrete continues to perform in our changing environments, and this is supported by the latest standards and design codes.
Innovation is ongoing – for example in the development of admixtures and alternative cementitious materials, which will ensure that concrete’s important properties can be maintained cost effectively as concrete specifications evolve and material availability changes.