New tool paves the way for wider use of sustainable concrete

TNO has developed a new approach and a new tool to improve the use of more sustainable types of concrete and secondary raw materials. Until now, these materials have not been used on a large scale, primarily because use in concrete structures is complex.

The Netherlands faces a major task in reducing CO2reduce emissions drastically while taking care of the scarcity of materials. Construction plays an important role in achieving the climate goals. The sector consumes half of all raw materials in our country, accounts for 40 percent of energy consumption and a third of total CO.2emissions.

Half of all building materials are concrete, so a lot of profit can be made if concrete can be used more sustainably. TNO has developed a new approach and tool for this. Until now, more sustainable types of concrete and secondary raw materials have not been used on a large scale because their use in concrete structures is complex. On the one hand, the concrete that we have always known is changing, on the other hand, there are more and more requirements. A construction must not only be safe and affordable, but also sustainable and circular.


The new approach – Material-driven Multi-criteria Design Optimization (MIMO) – helps the parties involved (customers, construction companies, contractors, demolition companies, recycling companies) to make the optimal choices. The MIMO approach forms a hub between data, models and smart software. Central to the approach is information on locally available raw materials (resource-based engineering† For example, the material properties of elements or granules from concrete rubble are determined. All requirements are delivered simultaneously with data, such as minimizing the environmental impact, costs, but also maximizing safety. We want safe concrete structures.
MIMO then processes the data using calculation models for design scenarios that optimally and measurably meet the various requirements. The user can thus easily consider what the best scenario is based on wishes and planning.


Every year, about 22 million tons of rocky waste are released through demolition. Currently, only 2 million tonnes of this is recycled, while we produce 33 million new concrete each year. According to TNO, MIMO can support assessment and optimal utilization of recycling and recycling from construction and demolition waste. “That flow accounts for more than half of current concrete production!” says Siska Valcke, expert in circular concrete at TNO. ”When optimizing recycling, also for CO2reduction, thanks to MIMO, two important strategies will soon emerge. The full recycling of elements from existing concrete structures and the use of crushed rubble reduces an estimated 0.75 to 1.25 million tonnes of CO22 per year, ”said Valcke.

Design phase

MIMO is in line with initiatives that the sector is already developing, such as new types of concrete with less cement, slimmer constructions and removable construction. With MIMO, the parties can balance and optimally combine different strategies for sustainability and circularity. The new approach is now being tested on a limited scale as a tool. This demonstrates the benefits of the approach for the parties involved when used in the different phases of the decision-making and design phase.

Designers can, at an early stage, incorporate the capabilities and data of suppliers, demolition companies and recycling companies into their design in order to arrive at an optimal solution. Customers gain insight into solutions that measurably meet their requirements and that they can compare transparently with each other. Contractors and demolition companies gain measurable insight into the costs and benefits of smart disassembly and storage of materials.


MIMO is set up in such a way that new design questions, requirements, data and models can be added and linked together, so that the tool can be implemented more step by step. Valcke: “Our approach provides the most value if the collaboration in the concrete sector between companies, governments and knowledge institutions begins to grow. Then MIMO activates the chain-spanning transition to more sustainable concrete. The foundation has been laid, and from here we can start collaborating with the sector to make the transition to more sustainable concrete. ”

TNO presents the MIMO approach on 14 June at Concrete Day at Van Nelle Factory (Rotterdam).

Source: TNO press release
Image: Shutterstock

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