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At the recent British Construction Industry Awards, often described as the 'Oscars'of the construction industry, concrete had both starring and supporting roles. It was celebrated not only for its design and structural innovation but also for its heavyweight performance.

This performance was appreciated during a summer that gave us a hot and sticky insight into the predicted future impact of global warming and provided a loud wake-up call that many offices, particularly those of lightweight construction, are unable to cope with high temperatures.

Concrete, with its inherent thermal efficiency, provides a thermal sink that stores and then later releases heat. In this way a building structure can be used to moderate internal temperatures and so reduce reliance on air conditioning systems.

There is a growing number of commercial buildings where the fabric energy storage (FES) ability of concrete has been put to good use.Unwanted heat is absorbed by the building and then released as the building is cooled by night-time ventilation and subsidiary partial air conditioning when needed. In this way, the peak internal temperature of a building can be reduced by up to 20 per cent.

There is no additional cost associated with using exposed concrete. In fact doing so can often provide significant cost savings. Exposure of the concrete floor soffits removes the need to install suspended ceilings. Also, exposed concrete columns do not need additional fire protection cover. These savings can be considerable, up to 5 per cent of total construction. Not having to install suspended ceilings can reduce a building's height by 1015 per cent.

All this combines to offer a performance of visual honesty and real structural meaning. A performance that was fully appreciated and applauded at this year's industry 'Oscars'.

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