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There is definitely an increased sense of confidence in concrete. This is underlined by the growing appreciation by designers, constructors and end users of the many inherent benefits of concrete construction. These include fire protection, thermal and energy efficiency, robust construction, low maintenance and an unrivalled range of structural solutions and architectural finishes.

Further evidence of this new confidence comes from the ongoing development of new concrete products and construction techniques. Innovations such as the introduction of insulating concrete formwork and improvement in precast products offer faster construction, improved thermal and acoustic insulation, greater design flexibility and reduced on-site manpower requirements. And the publication of new research, best-practice guides and learning resources shows how the full potential of concrete construction can be achieved.

A new symbol of the confidence of the cement and concrete industry is the establishment of a national centre of cement and concrete excellence, based at Camberley, Surrey, which will be opened formally this month.

Headed by the British Cement Association, the Concrete Society and The Concrete Centre, this new centre brings together a wealth of experience and expertise and acts as a focus for innovation and market development. The centre is further strengthened by the inclusion and partnership of key industry bodies such as CONSTRUCT, Britpave and Interpave.

The growing appreciation of concrete is no passing fad. It is a renewed realisation of the material's architectural aesthetics, design, construction, performance and economic benefits. The new centre, by providing a central focus for the industry, will ensure that designers, engineers and constructors can specify concrete, confident in the knowledge that it offers the better solution.

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