Rather than running to a set material for each solution we work with the Architect and Client to select material options and to provide guidance on how best to use the materials they want to use. Its not always as simple as swapping one material out for an other, as each material has its own properties and unique qualities. The basic options are:
Timber has been around for millennia and used by humans in the construction of early buildings, we are returning to using this product in our droves as we rediscover how environmentally friendly this product can be and how versatile and durable it is when used in the appropriate way.
Timber comes from various sources from around the world ranging in typical softwoods to hardwoods. Europe as a whole is a net grower, and produces a huge volume of timber that is expanding yearly. With the net growing we are also capturing CO2 from the atmosphere and locking it into out buildings.
There is a huge range of products varying from simple joists to engineered CLT panels, glulam beams, plywood, Chipboard etc..
All these products have a use and place in construction, with multi-storey buildings now being created using timber for the frame of the building.
With the Industrial revolution steel became a material used in the formation of buildings, starting with cast iron and wrought iron, now with modern steel used mainly in commercial buildings, but we can use it in smaller projects when the steel becomes part of the aesthetic or a minimal structure is required.
We can also assess existing steel structures, as with age, the strength of steel can vary due to the technology at the time of construction. We have worked on listed building to assess steel beams, for current and future loadings.
The material is typically 80%-85% formed from recycled sources, and can be recycled in the future.
It is worth noting that steel is also contained within reinforced concrete structures to provide tensile load carrying capacity for beams and columns in bending.
Steel is suitably flexible that it can be cut and formed into most shapes, and create those large overhangs and transfer structures.
Concrete can be found in the Parthenon in Rome in a slightly different chemical form.
We now use concrete for various types of elements within a structure, be that foundations, retaining structures or frames. Its versatility makes it suitable for all sorts of structures. Concrete can add mass into a structure to dampen the dynamics and can be used for buildings where fire protection is key.
Concrete of course takes incredible resources to generate, be that the process of making cement (car tyres are often used to fuel the heat required) or the excavation of natural materials, we can of course help by specifying suitable recycled materials, to provide a concrete that can be between 40 and 80% recycled products.
We use concrete largely in foundations, and basement structures as a practice. We have as individuals designed concrete frame structures for hospitals and university buildings, as well as for components such as pre-cast flooring and composite decking.
Traditionally we have been using masonry to construct buildings for centuries and we continue to use clay bricks, but more and more structures use brick or stone as an external envelope, with concrete blocks used on the inside.
Due consideration of the material properties for movement from seasonal and long term creep and shrinkage of the materials is required.