How to Make Steel and Concrete Framed Buildings More Sustainable

For reasons of simplicity, speed and economy, steel and concrete framing is, and will remain, a common design choice. And as the drive towards net carbon zero building gathers pace, there is an increasing focus on how steel and concrete framed buildings can be made more sustainable.

Recently, a three-year project aimed at making concrete structures more sustainable was launched involving the universities of Cambridge, Bath and Dundee. Automating Concrete Construction (ACORN) will use advances in robotics and digital design to reimagine how concrete buildings are made. One of the chief aims is to design concrete beams, columns and floor slabs so they use the minimum amount of material to perform their structural task.

Using less material, offsite manufacturing, and shipping only what is needed to the site are important aspects of making construction more sustainable. As buildings become more efficient to operate there will inevitably be a greater focus on the energy embedded in the structure during construction.

Sustainable Wrap and Infill

As well as improving the sustainability of steel and concrete frames, greater attention is being paid to the wrap or infill systems applied to complete the structure. Traditional block and brick infill brings with it a lot of embedded energy that is hard to recover or offset. It also consumes a great deal of water and generates a significant amount of waste.

Panelised offsite utilising a wrap and infill approach is more in tune with the aims of the ACORN project. The Innovaré i-SIP and i-FAST systems also use advanced digital design and offsite manufacturing to fine-tune the performance and configuration of the large format panels and eliminate waste from the process.

Complete, precision-made panels are shipped to the site as needed and quickly secured to the frame. There is no cutting or reworking of the panels on site so there is no additional waste to manage.

Thermal Efficiency Built-In

The sustainability benefits of SIPs endure beyond the construction phase. Thermal performance is built into each panel using advanced design and manufacturing techniques. Low levels of air permeability and minimal thermal bridging losses also ensure that wrap and infill using SIPs is a reliable way to create energy-efficient buildings at scale – eliminating the gap between design and actual levels of insulation and energy efficiency.

Three Rivers Academy is just one project where the i-SIP System was used to wrap a concrete-framed structure to produce a striking and energy-efficient result. Similarly, West Thames College shows how i-SIP infill offers a cost-effective and sustainable option for frame infill.

SIPs are a viable route to creating buildings that create less construction waste, are more efficient to heat and less dependent on mechanical cooling and ventilation. Innovaré’s unique in-house design, manufacture and install process also makes the technology easy to adopt for projects seeking to achieve maximum sustainability performance.

Find out more about the 10 benefits of utilising a wrap and infill approach here.