The choice of materials, their sourcing and manufacture, greatly affects the forms of our buildings and infrastructure, their carbon cost, construction methods, performance, running costs and durability. Ultimately, that choice of materials determines the lifespan of an asset and the ability to reuse or recycle its elements.

Arup has wide expertise in the development, validation and implementation of materials, including sustainable, low carbon sources. Our teams apply material innovation on small and large scale projects, sharing these insights across multiple industries and locations. 

Materials science and engineering

Arup’s materials advice extends throughout the full life cycle of a project from concept to maintenance and at the end-of-life stage, with considerations for reuse.

Materials science and engineering

Arup’s materials advice extends throughout the full life cycle of a project from concept to maintenance and at the end-of-life stage, with considerations for reuse.

Amsterdam’s MX3D robot printed footbridge welds steelwork with state-of-the-art technology

We apply our prior knowledge and experience across many different sectors and collaborate with clients and industry to push the envelope. Materials can be chosen to meet specific criteria at the concept and design stage. There can also be material experimentation using new or improved processes during the manufacture or production phase of a project. 

Our expertise extends to include  performance assessment once a project is complete or assessment or throughout the asset’s life. We work with industry bodies and partners to challenges codes and standards. Using our research and applied knowledge we advocate for regulations that keep up with the pace of design and the new demands of a net zero and circular economy. As we have been involved in the definition of many of these codes, we are well placed to translate their intent into new contexts which they could not have anticipated - responding to new challenges whilst remaining true to the spirit they express.

Architectural materials

Arup’s architectural materials experts have deep industry experience grounded in an understanding of  manufacturing processes, opportunities and limitations.

Architectural materials

The challenges of creating buildings in the 21st century means the design, selection and specification of architectural materials is a fundamental consideration affecting our built environment.

The selection of materials for Copenhagen's Cityringen Metro was a key element of the station's character and design - our experts sought to pay homage to the areas that stations served in their selection of materials such as the use of beautiful, fossil-embedded sand-coloured limestone panels at Marmorkirken, or the application of bold red cladding to identify the transfer stations.

Thoughtful selection of architectural materials can enable circular economy outcomes and contribute to healthy environments, and safe buildings that can be adapted to future use. 

Arup’s architectural materials experts have deep industry experience grounded in an understanding of  manufacturing processes, opportunities and limitations. As industry-leading experts they are up to date with cutting edge manufacturing innovation, as well as decarbonisation initiatives, and a clear understanding of the often hidden environmental impacts.

With years of experience collaborating with architects and designers to realise some of the world’s most iconic buildings our team can address challenges such as producing unique forms and finishes in glass or architectural ceramics, using calcined clay to create low carbon concrete, or understanding the environmental impact of different natural stones. 

Timber innovation creates unique challenges for structural and fire performance, but is increasingly popular for its sustainability and the experience it offers. Familiar materials such as brick present a wide range of environmental impacts, requiring an expert eye. 

As we look to avoid virgin materials consumption where possible, the reuse of existing materials from the ‘urban mine’ is becoming increasingly key. These include reuse of existing concrete, ‘harvested’ during demolition, salvage of bricks, steel, or our pioneering work in the reclamation of architectural glass.  

Find out more about our work on Cityringen

Asset life extension

Arup’s materials team aims to extend the life of existing assets by understanding the materials and components in them. 

Asset life extension

A core principle of the circular economy, keeping existing assets in use for longer helps to reduce the environmental burden of having to build new.

Rijkswaterstaat bridge

We are working with the Dutch roads authority, Rikswaterstaat, to undertake a long-term bridge maintenance and refurbishment programme. Combined with our extensive bridge engineering experience, our understanding of materials means we have been able to achieve optimal, cost-effective solutions for every bridge in the programme.

Arup’s materials team aims to extend the life of existing assets by understanding the materials and components in them. 

We help our clients to protect and enhance their existing assets on a single asset or portfolio level. We apply material knowledge and understanding of previous material performance to help clients extend the life of assets. This could be through detailed first principles analysis to upgrade or repair assets; or through a portfolio level review to develop preventative maintenance plans. This creates an understanding of where components may reach the end of their service life and determining the true remaining service life beyond the original assumptions. 

Find out more about our work with Rijkswaterstaat

Decarbonisation of the built environment

Our materials specialists work with stakeholders to identify scalable ways to accelerate system wide decarbonisation beyond a single project or initiative.

Decarbonisation of the built environment

Global decarbonization trajectories indicate that the industry needs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030 if it is to reach net zero by mid-century and achieve the climate goals of the Paris Agreement. This is a significant challenge.

Carbon footprint of facades significance of glass

Working with Saint-Gobain Glass, we undertook research to understand the role of glass within the whole life-cycle carbon emissions of facade systems.

Whilst there is much we can do to minimise the embodied carbon of our designs (through efficient design), the demand for construction is ever present, such that this will be unachievable without the significant decarbonisation of the material supply chains we rely on. 

Drawing on our deep domain expertise across the materials supply chain in the built environment, our materials specialists work with stakeholders to identify scalable ways to accelerate system wide decarbonisation beyond a single project or initiative. 

Download: Carbon footprint of facades: significance of glass

Low impact materials

As materials engineers, we support clients in understanding the wider environmental impacts and implications presented by a project or proposal.

Low impact materials

Everything around us is made from something. From a paper clip to a reinforced concrete bridge, everything we make produces a complex web of impacts throughout its design, manufacture and use.

Inside 80 M Street SE

80 M Street SE is the first tall office built in Washington DC. As a recognised leader in mass timber design, we were able to work with our fire engineers to demonstrate the material's ability to meet Washington DC's strict fire codes.

As materials engineers, we support clients in understanding the wider environmental impacts and implications presented by a project or proposal. Our approach seeks to evaluate the environmental and social impacts of materials use, ensuring that focus on a single criteria doesn’t simply shift the burden to another impact area.

Beyond embodied carbon, we consider criteria such as human health and wellbeing, responsible sourcing, materials efficiency and wider circular economy considerations, such as reusability. From this informed position, we seek to co-create strategies with our clients to reduce our negative impact, whilst maximising environmental and socioeconomic benefits.

Find out more about work on 80 M Street SE

Recycling and reuse

We provide services to identify, quantify, specify, and enable the reuse or reclamation of materials in existing buildings.

Recycling and reuse

Our built environment is full of materials that could be re used or recycled when an asset comes to the end of its service life, yet too often these materials are sent to landfill or downcycled through the value chain.

The Burrell Collection

The Burrel Collection comprises a vast array of art from around the world. Adopting a fabric first approach, we have improved the building's energy performance and delivered significant carbon savings by meticulously considering all aspects of the design and reconstruction of the building envelope from the outset. Over 16 tonnes of usable glass was recovered for processing into new architectural glass. This is rarely achieved in refurbishment projects and saves CO2 by eliminating the need to extract raw materials.

Our mission is to change this and reduce the carbon intensity and resource consumption of the built environment through increased reuse and reclamation of materials in existing buildings.

We provide services to identify, quantify, specify, and enable the reuse or reclamation of materials in existing buildings. Focusing on glass, steel, aluminium, stone, masonry with the opportunity explore other materials, these services enable the materials most appropriate second use. By defining an asset’s material value and their second use strategy these materials can be kept at their highest possible level in the value chain for future generations.