Take a look outside. Go on. While it’s not quite a concrete jungle, it’s pretty close, right? Concrete is one of the most common materials used in the UK construction industry today and, alongside the likes of brick, steel, wood, and glass, makes up the majority of traditional building materials that commercial contractors rely on for successful projects.
The good news is that some of these materials are considered to be sustainable. The bad news, however, is that the industry is using these resources at an unsustainable rate. Today, building contractors need to be pioneers; they need to constantly be innovating and open to utilising the latest modern construction materials – and techniques – to ensure the industry moves forward in a way that’s not only sustainable, but effective.
Here are just a few of the smarter materials construction firms are using today:
Waste-filled concrete is concrete that’s been ‘padded out’ with materials that would typically be destined for landfill. Glass-reinforced plastic (GRP) concrete is one of the most popular forms, and is used to make paving slabs, architectural cladding, interior walls, and for roofing, too. Not only can GRP concrete reduce the cost of construction aggregate by around 15%, but it also helps keep waste out of landfills. Research shows that the UK produces 55,000 of GRP waste annually, with 90% headed for landfill.
Bioplastics – plastic materials made from plant matter such as corn and sugarcane – is the material of choice for new 3D-printed construction materials. As it’s not quite as strong and sturdy as concrete, to date it’s mainly used by forward-thinking fit out contractors to create flooring, stairs, and other interior elements and decor. However, there is an entire ‘urban cabin’ on the banks of Amsterdam’s canals that’s been made entirely out of 3D-printed bioplastics that are 100% renewable and sustainable.
Mass timber has been referred to as ‘wooden Lego’. It’s essentially large scale wooden panels made from combining multiple smaller lengths of softwoods to form bigger, stronger, more durable structural material for building. When done right, it’s said that mass timber can be just as strong as concrete or steel… and may even be able to exceed their performance! The world’s tallest mass timber structure in Norway won the Award of Excellence at the 2021 Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat awards.
There’s More to Come
The great news is that research is continually moving forward, especially thanks to the Government’s Construction Innovation Hub that aims to transform performance and productivity in the construction industry through new ideas and revolutionary advancements that can help to turn unusual resources into viable building materials.
At SCAPE, innovation is at the heart of what we do. We know just how vital innovation is to the future of the construction and office fit out sectors, and we’re excited to be involved in this era of transformation and change. Innovation and technology have always been – and always will be – central to each and every one of our projects.