Fifty shades of grey

Concrete moulded into the shape of crumpled fabric, concrete that emits light, concrete that develops patterns as it eats pollution from the air, concrete walls inset with jewels and gold… if you think of concrete as a predominantly solid, grey and rather boring material, think again. The summer 2013 issue of Concrete Quarterly, which I edit for UBM and The Concrete Centre, features many surprising and beautiful examples of finishes, structures and works of art created by concrete’s devotees. Our cover star, meanwhile, is Foster + Partners’ Queen Alia Airport in Jordan, with some photos that could have come straight out of Star Wars.

Minority reporting

The construction industry used to send skip after skip (after skip after skip…) of surplus building materials, excavated earth, packaging and old fit-out components to landfill sites without a thought. Since 2008, firms have spent a great deal of time trying to reuse or recycle it instead, to meet a government target of halving waste to landfill by 2012. But whatever they do with their waste, they’re still producing it in the first place. The next step is to eliminate it from the process altogether by designing buildings to use materials more efficiently. That’s where quantity surveyors come in – everyone agrees that measuring waste is the first step to managing it, so the experts in brick counting have a very important role to play. But how do you measure something that has never existed? In this piece for Modus, the magazine of the RICS, I investigated how the profession is rising to the challenge.