Versatility & design

Timber is more versatile than concrete

Timber can be sourced with a limited range of densities and strengths. It can be factory processed into sawn timber, or into laminated beams, columns and panels. But in terms of versatility, concrete takes this to another level compared with timber allowing structural designers enormous scope to meet and optimise application requirements in the most sustainable manner.

Concrete is a suitable material for a wide range of applications

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.

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 enable 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

Facts & Fallacies

Strength, durability resilience & safety


Society expects the built environment – buildings, bridges and other infrastructure – to be enduring and safe – safety is the first priority.
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Biodiversity & Land use


Trees are the ‘lungs of the planet’. They absorb atmospheric CO2 and play a critical role in the fight against climate change. Trees, and the biodiversity that they support, are under threat from deforestation.
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Natural performance & environmental factors


Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are chemicals found in many common building materials that can escape into the air and cause illness and allergic reactions.
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Local availability


Long supply chains inevitable bring emissions and energy use that are often not accounted for in assessing the credentials of a material.
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Carbon emissions & circularity


To know if a material is really ecological, it is important to look at the whole life of the product from sourcing/extraction of raw materials, including the different processes and treatments transportation, in use maintenance and end of life.
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