The results of the Q3 2019 report of USP’s European Architectural Barometer show that concrete is the dominant material when using prefabricated building elements for facades, floors, flat roofs and bathrooms.
The trouble is that, given the trends of sustainability and circularity in construction, concrete has gotten a rather negative image. Not only does the production of concrete cause a lot of CO2 emissions, the process needed to re-use old concrete to accomplish circularity again causes a lot of emissions, leading to the image of concrete as not sustainable.
Timber, on the other hand, is considered a more sustainable material in terms of emissions, because during the growth from sapling to tree, a lot of CO2 has been taken out of the environment. According to the results of 1600 interviews with architects from eight European countries, timber is only the dominant material for prefabricated elements applied for dormers and pitched roofs.
Although concrete is the dominant material used, it is hard to predict whether greater concerns for sustainability will hamper the usage of prefabricated construction elements in the future, or will cause more sustainable materials to take over the prefab market. We should not forget that concrete is constantly being developed and chances are that concrete will be more sustainable in the future, for instance by developing technologies for concrete in facades to actually absorb CO2 from the environment. For more detailed information we refer you to the Q3 2019 report of USP’s European Architectural Barometer.