Concrete first appeared in Roman times and is characterised by its thermal mass and durability. While it uses non renewable resources (quarried materials) it can be recycled and has very a long life span. The beauty of concrete (if carefully detailed!) on the external face of a building is common in our cities, public buildings and also is common in well know modern residential architecture exteriors. But it is on the inside where it has great value in sustainable design. If it is exposed to solar gain in the winter, it holds the heat and then gradually radiates it back into the room, so long as there is some sort of insulation on the outside face to stop the heat migrating to the outside! If it is shaded from the heat of the sun in the summer, then it provides cooling by absorbing excess heat within a house, providing a thermal stability.
In residential architecture, a concrete floor is possibly the simplest way of adding concrete/thermal mass to your home, however using in-situ or precast concrete walls are a few other ways of adding texture, enclosure, solidity and thermal storage.
I love the textures of concrete cast into different formwork, the shadows and gravity that they can give to spaces.
There are so many other objects in a house that you can design with a material that can be manipulated into structural shapes and forms. However, while it can be moulded initially, its ultimate nature is not one of malleability – you never quite know what is going to be revealed when the linings come off – you can be as careful as you like with the preparation of the formwork structure, plywood, roughsawn boards, slick plastic liners, steel trays, special aggregate and white mixes – it still resolutely and stubbornly passes from a liquid state into a solid in its own interpretation of the shape. Once its set, its set, but in a way that’s the very beauty of it…..
May your formwork be strong and your ideas plentiful.
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