Thanks to increasing research on the constitution of concrete, including that carried out by the Lafarge Research Centre in partnership with leading universities, methods of using the material have been transformed. Exchanges of information between researchers, engineers and architects are constantly pushing back the structural and aesthetic boundaries of new concrete, paving the way for greater and greater architectural creativity. Architects today have a very broad spectrum of concrete at their disposal.
Research Manager for concrete, Laboratoire Central des Ponts et Chaussées (Central Civil Engineering Laboratory)
The menu of different types of concrete is expanding daily, since we can now play with its flexibility, durability, mechanical strength and many other properties, including its aesthetic properties. And we're not talking about an à la carte menu where the menu has a set number of choices, but concrete in fact with infinite possibilities, where we can make up our own concrete depending on project requirements.
Ductal® was launched by Lafarge in 2000. It has a compressive strength of 200 megapascals and it’s still in its infancy. And there are architects who have still not fully exploited its potential.
The calculation codes, the standards and documentation in force make it difficult to get the best out of this compressive strength so that's no longer the issue. Use of this material is much more about finding out its optimum efficiency, particularly from the sustainable construction point of view, how we can ensure that the environmental impact of global construction draws on the performance levels that we’ve managed to reach.
Architects’ offices, Emmanuel Combarel and Dominique Marrec
Architect’s offices, Marc Mimram
All these innovations have turned upside down the relationships that architects had with the Lafarge. It's no longer about problems of concrete delivery but rather about exchanges of expertise and ideas, partnerships between Lafarge and architects, paving the way for architectural achievements.
Research Manager for concrete, Laboratoire Central des Ponts et Chaussées (Central Civil Engineering Laboratory
The relationship with architects in general is more about how they see the potential for this material, the opening up of new possibilities at the design level. Overall, they are very open to these new possibilities, to the fluidity it gives them in terms of shape and mechanical strength, enabling them to design lighter structures; they’re also much more concerned about durability and the environmental impact and very interested in anything to do with life cycle analysis and improvement of the environmental impact.
Inhabited bridge project in New York, USA, by Marc Mimram
There’s a dual interest for us in working with a manufacturer such as Lafarge: the interests are technical and social. Why's that? It's because on the one hand we are working with a manufacturer directly and we can ask them questions at the same time as answering their questions, such as what can we do with this new material, how can we use it differently? At the same time we can ask them, for example, if we were to use it like that, how would it fit in with your research? It turns out that some of the projects we’ve put forward can be executed at once, whereas it seems that others are much more difficult to consider for immediate implementation.
You see that dialogue is taking place with the research centers at the same time as with those who are developing the material.
So it's good to have this direct relationship between those who are developing it for themselves and us, who are there to find not only new applications but new developments using this material.
Agence S. Berthelier – B. Tribouillet architecture
What is interesting in working with engineers is sharing ideas and having different constructive approaches, as well as having different insights that complement each other in the end. What I like about the partnership I have with Lafarge is this synergy and open-mindedness.
That’s the magic of the relationship that always exists between technology and architecture.
It's quite difficult to know how or with whom it begins. Let me take an example from history: it’s the skyscraper. In Chicago, within the space of 15 years, Carrier invented air conditioning, Otis invented the lift, Edison perfected the electric light bulb and Bell the telephone, because it’s not very easy being in a 20-storey building without a telephone.
So we see that without these technological innovations, the skyscraper wouldn't have been possible, yet at the same time, architects wanted to go up 20, then 30 storeys with this type of building.
So it was a sort of happy coincidence that what was coming out of the research laboratories and from engineers coincided with the ideas that architects were having.
Relationships have changed. Now the architects work hand in hand with Lafarge researchers. It’s a win-win relationship in that both the architects and scientists benefit from it, as well as markets that are being offered innovative value-added concretes.