GRC – A building block of wellness?

First identified by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 1984, Sick Building Syndrome was the cause of headaches, sore throats, dizziness and even nausea among people working in sterile, poorly designed, inadequately ventilated structures. Since then, architects have become more aware of the impact of bad building design, promoting the idea of ‘wellness’ much further up the agenda.

This global trend is now being seen among specifiers who are keen to adopt building products that actively support the wellness agenda right the way through the supply chain. One product that has recently grown in popularity on the back of this movement is Glass Reinforced Concrete, commonly known as GRC.

James Butler is Commercial Director of London-based Pura Façades, which has seen a significant increase in architects looking for more natural products that contribute to the ‘health at work’ agenda. He said: “Our latest financial results posted in 2020 show a marked increase (of more than 50% on the previous) for GRC products. While much of this growth was due to pent up demand in the market, I am convinced a good proportion of this rise was down to the growing appreciation of GRC as a ‘natural’, textured product which can contribute to the wellness agenda.”

While Butler points to the environmental low carbon/low heat aspects of the product’s manufacturing process, GRC’s endless ability to be recycling and re-used certainly ticks the box when it comes to the planet’s health. He said: “Being made from naturally occurring elements such sand, aggregate, cement and water, GRC is easy to break down and re-use. Manufacturers such as Rieder are also innovative when it comes to maximizing product use, creating its Oko Skin plank from larger GRC panels, all to environmental EPD standards.

“Once on the building, GRC is proven to retain heat, thanks to its relatively high U-value – thus reducing bills and keeping people comfortable. Even better, there are plans to incorporate capillary heating tubes within Rieder products due to its excellent insulation. Unlike many manmade cladding products, GRC is very tactile, with textures providing a warm engaging surface either internally or externally. The wide range of subtle, natural colours available also add to the overall sense of wellbeing.”

Butler continues: “Wellness at work is not just about the science and performance of building. The way a product makes people feel is equally important. GRC is totally natural and resembles stone and I think we all respond positively to this aspect of the material, even on a subconscious level.”

Pura Façades is the UK’s sole distributor of Rieder products, which provide a high spec finish to building projects. Butler concludes: “We’re seeing GRC now being used for both domestic and commercial projects – providing tactile surfaces that are also aesthetically pleasing to the eye. Whether at home or work, people appreciate high quality and GRC enables developers to bring this aspect to new buildings without breaking their budgets.”