Pioneering sustainable concrete

Building materials

Sustainable concrete requires a transition within the sector: from large-scale use of primary raw materials such as sand and gravel, to large-scale use of secondary material flows such as rubble and demolition waste. Until now, this has not been possible due to the large variance in these waste streams, both in size and composition. Our new approach helps to accelerate this sustainable transition and to take a step towards more sustainable concrete. We introduce Material Driven Multicriteria Design Optimisation, or MIMO.

Want to know more about the new approach to more sustainable concrete?

Download the paper which explains more about MIMO.

MIMO approach as a solution for more sustainable  concrete

MIMO is a comprehensive approach to the transition towards sustainable concrete. The idea: take as a starting point the data and primary properties of available raw materials, (new) material flows and constituents. And ensure that new data are constantly processed as flexibly as possible, instead of using standards and calculation rules that have remained fixed for years.

Until now, this has hardly been an issue, as traditional concrete was the starting point in the design process of concrete structures. The great diversity and size of the material flows, from demolition waste and rubble for example, mean that making concrete more sustainable is very complex and therefore difficult to implement. But now technological developments enable the concrete sector to take the first step towards making concrete more sustainable.

Three elements play an important role in the MIMO approach:

  • Specific and measurable data on the properties of the available material.
  • Advanced material models which, when fed with that data, predict the impact of the material used on a concrete structure.
  • Smart optimisation software to generate sustainable and integrated design solutions that meet these requirements: environmentally friendly, structurally safe and affordable.

This combination of data, models and optimisation software is called MIMO.

How MIMO works

The data

Early in the design process of a new concrete structure, you collect all the data regarding the new project. These data form the requirements (criteria) in the MIMO approach. In this step, all the available data for all available sustainability methods are included, as well as the data regarding recovered raw materials, materials and elements.

Validated mathematical models

A chain of validated mathematical models is ready in MIMO to process all data, such as the data on material properties, costs and quantities, into information that helps when designing the concrete structure. The calculation models are tailored to the materials and sustainability methods, and are derived from current regulations, state-of-the-art knowledge, and research in the field of concrete and safety. Missing models are developed and added to MIMO.

Optimisation software

The calculating power of multi-criteria optimisation software performs a complex balancing process between the input data, the requirements/criteria that must be fulfilled by the design, and the calculation models.

The MIMO results

After going through these steps, MIMO provides various design solutions for a concrete structure that is safe (pdf), with available sustainability methods being applied optimally that are compatible with the designs of the architect and structural engineer. MIMO indicates how well a variant meets the wishes and requirements specified in step 1.

It is also possible to prioritise the requirements set. This provides a good insight into which design variant, based on available material flows and set against requirements and priorities, best suits your needs. And you can take the best step towards sustainable concrete!

Five frequently asked questions | MIMO

Below, we answer the 5 most frequently asked questions about MIMO.

Besides the advantages in the early design process, MIMO can also pave the way for greater cooperation in the sector:

  • Clients, for example, receive design solutions that demonstrably meet their requirements, and which they are able to compare with other solutions in a transparent manner.
  • Contractors and demolition companies get a better understanding of the costs and benefits of smart disassembly and the storage of materials.
  • Material-specific information that demolition companies are able to provide is of great value to construction companies and engineering firms.
  • For recycling companies, the demand for, for example, concrete granulates and masonry powders will increase. They can add value by providing advance information about material properties, which can then be used in the design.

MIMO is customised and is currently still in the development stage. We are, however, looking to collaborate with companies so together we can facilitate the expansion of MIMO! We do this by working with companies in the industry to feed MIMO with more information. The more information included in MIMO, the better the sustainable solutions will be. Solutions that suit your business and your project!

Design process

With MIMO, designers gain almost real-time insight into the impact that new data about available materials, raw materials and constituents will have on the performance of their design. This allows them and their clients to make well-informed and objective decisions. The MIMO approach removes uncertainties and issues surrounding new secondary material flows: a design that is sustainable, but also meets requirements for structural safety while remaining affordable.

Increasing use of secondary material flows and scarcity of primary raw materials

MIMO allows for a wider use of available secondary material flows. In addition, this approach also allows for more diverse secondary material flows to be reused than is currently possible with the traditional design approach – even when using different materials and resources within a single project. Especially in light of the upcoming shortage of raw materials, the reuse of raw materials, materials and constituents is becoming increasingly important.

Secondary concrete and masonry now account for almost half of the annual Dutch waste. If these material flows can be used on a larger scale, or even for completely new, sustainable concrete, this will lead to at least ten times as much reuse of concrete than is the case today. And up to at least 50% less use of primary raw materials in concrete. We estimate this will lead to a 20% reduction in the current CO2 emissions from concrete, which represents a third of the 2030 target of the Dutch Concrete Industry Platform (Betonakkoord).

Although there are various innovations to make concrete more sustainable, these hardly ever find their way into practice. This is due to a number of factors:

  • In the construction sector, everything is laid down in standards and regulations, and these are not yet relevant for innovative concrete types (from secondary material flows, for example).
  • Returning to the calculations used for traditional concrete, or creating new standards and calculation rules, are not sustainable solutions either. This inhibits the use of more sustainable raw materials, and leads to designs that are less sustainable than they could be.
  • The complex design process: with the advent of more sustainable but changing material flows on the one hand, and an increasing number of requirements relating to, for example, structural safety, the environment and costs on the other.

The entire concrete sector must play a part in bringing about affordable and safe concrete structures, now and in the future. So don't hesitate any longer and join us!