Versatility for Structural Design

Concrete is a hugely versatile material, allowing structural designers enormous scope to meet and optimise application requirements with concrete in the most sustainable manner.

As a material, concrete is versatile across many parameters, including its constituents, composition, method of manufacture, product range, method of placement, and exposure conditions for which it is designed. This versatility, combined with the inherent performance benefits of concrete, means that concrete is a suitable material for a wide range of applications in the built environment and that there is much scope for designers to optimise sustainability in each application.

Over and above these aspects of versatility, there are additional ones that can be exploited in structural design. The following five are particularly and commonly relevant to structural design. They are given in no particular order, because structural design is an iterative process and all five are interrelated:

  • Shape (linear, planar and 3-D; rectilinear, curved, or combination; solid, hollow or voided).
  • Strength (compressive strengths from 10MPa to 100MPa are generally available).
  • Whether it is unreinforced, reinforced, or prestressed.
  • Type of reinforcement: fibres, ferrous bars, or non-corroding reinforcement.
  • Cast on site, i.e. mixed on site or ready-mixed (with different formwork, including insulated concrete forms) or cast in elements in a factory.

This structural versatility provides the engineer, often working with the architect, enormous scope to meet the application requirements in an optimum way. As sustainability becomes increasingly important, the above versatility aspects of concrete enables the structural designer to:

  • Optimise material use
  • Minimise carbon impacts
  • Consider both offsite or onsite construction or a combination of the two  
  • Optimise water use

Header photo by Paul Mocan on Unsplash