Benefits of Concrete Floors
Concrete has a number of performance characteristics that can improve the sustainability performance of a building or structure. An overview is provided here.
The issue of sound insulation and acoustic performance of homes has grown in importance, primarily due to the growing demand from government for increased density of urban dwellings. The number of complaints about noise has risen due both to this closer proximity and the new demands placed on housing (e.g. entertainment systems). For this reason, the UK Building Regulations Part E now requires improved sound insulation.
New building works within areas of flood risk are only permitted in exceptional cases where the risks are managed and adequate flood defence measures and/or flood resistant construction techniques are adopted. The type of floor construction is an important consideration.
Concrete does not burn: it cannot be ‘set on fire’ like other materials in a building and it does not emit any toxic fumes when affected by fire. It will also not produce smoke or drip molten particles. For these reasons, in the majority of applications, concrete can be described as virtually ‘fireproof’. Concrete’s inbuilt fire resistance maintains airtight construction that stops smoke spreading, and the ability to maintain the building’s strength during a fire.
Thermal mass and operational energy efficiency
Thermal mass basically describes the ability of construction materials to absorb, store and release heat; a useful property which helps regulate the temperature in buildings. Heavyweight materials such as concrete provide a high level of thermal mass, and this is often measured in terms of something called ‘admittance’ which has units of W/m2 K.
Low carbon construction
Sustainability is more than simply about carbon, and this is recognised in codes and assessment tools. However CO2 emissions, associated with materials, manufacture, construction, operation and end of use, is an important parameter and the cement and concrete industry is investing hugely in developing and enabling construction solutions that reduce whole life CO2 emissions as well as embodied CO2.
Durability and long-life
The full structural capacity of a masonry or concrete wall, with its considerable reserve of strength and ability to accommodate future changes, far exceeds design requirements. It is this inherent robustness that has enabled traditionally built houses to cater for increased loads emanating from alterations and adaptation. Their strength also facilitates the introduction of concrete upper floors which provide clear spans between external walls and will support internal masonry walls. All internal walls below become non-load bearing, producing a design where the layout can be altered to cater for future changes in living requirements, so satifying the government’s requirement for ‘lifetime homes’.