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LEADER

CONCRETE QUARTERLY/ AUTUMN 05

The house-building industry is under pressure to build faster and more efficiently, to improve performance and to provide homes that are more sustainable and able to cope with the impact of climate change.

Concrete offers an unrivalled range of benefits that allow housebuilders to meet those demands. These include robustness, inherent fire resistance, sound insulation and thermal efficiency. To these are added the potential of flexible design and innovative construction techniques such as tunnelform and insulated concrete formwork.

Such benefits are proven and recognised by homeowners. This is an important consideration for housebuilders, especially as, according to SmartLIFE (the partnership between the UK, Germany and Sweden to develop solutions to construction problems common to Europe) there is 'an underlying resistance to homes built with off-site systems based on consumers' concerns about durability, quality and the value of their home as a long-term asset'.

The issue of 'long-term asset value' is an important consideration. Poor sound insulation between apartments at the lightweight-constructed Greenwich Millennium development, reported recently, means homeowners there are regarding their homes as anything but a long-term asset.

Furthermore, the impact of climate change will demand homes that are robust enough to withstand flooding and storms and, via thermal efficiency, are able to mitigate the effect of increased summer temperatures.

Marrying traditional benefits and future possibilities, concrete still has a huge amount to offer for residential design and construction.

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