Concrete was on display and in discussion at the OBEL AWARD ceremony 2022 at the Utzon Centre in Aalborg, Denmark on 25 October 2022.

PhD students at Imperial College London Sam Draper and Barney Shanks have won the OBEL AWARD 2022 for their solution to make sustainable concrete. In front of a selection of the Seratech carbon-neutral concrete products, Draper and Shanks accepted the award and the trophy by artist Tomás Saraceno.

Adrian Forty, Emeritus Professor of Architectural History at the UCL in London, held a short lecture on concrete in the modern world – and how it became so rapidly indispensable and so deeply embedded in our cultural and mental landscape. If, he suggested, we are ever to wean ourselves off concrete, we might do well to understand better the nature of our dependency upon it.

Martha Schwartz
, Chair of the OBEL AWARD Jury, presented the winners and the jury’s motivation.

“Our focus for the 2022 award was on projects that were carbon-neutral,” she said. “We searched for architectural solutions that could be globally adaptable and scaled up, which could become part of a greater effort to combat climate change.

It was not an architectural solution per se that caught our attention but a new technology. Seratech stood out as a potential game-changer for concrete as a carbon-neutral construction material. The jury agreed that even though this might not be seen as “architecture,” we need all hands on deck and must work together and support ideas that are relevant to the built environment – across disciplines and across silos – to overcome the climate crisis.

The OBEL AWARD is more fluid and open than other awards. So, we can support new and possibly even contentious ideas that have real possibilities and could move us forward.”

In Seratech’s acceptance speech, Barney Shanks said:

“Concrete is an unbeatable material – on cost, durability, and adaptability. That’s the reason we build skyscrapers, tunnels, and airports with it – we trust it. And we have invested a huge global industry that can deliver it. We cannot throw that away. We have to find a way to reduce the harmful impact of making cement.

Sam and I are extremely grateful to the Henrik Frode Obel foundation for setting up this important annual award and to the jury for seeing something in our work that could mark a significant change in how we build, slowing down global warming in the process. Events like this can really magnify the impact of a new idea or a technology, helping to make it more visible to wider audiences and giving confidence to people like us to carry on developing these ideas.”

Sam Draper said:

“Winning the OBEL AWARD is absolutely massive for us. The huge recognition and the prize money will both be invaluable in helping us scale up the production of our concrete and ensure that it can be used in real buildings as soon as possible. Because, at the end of the day, that’s what we all want to see. Carbon-neutral concrete. Buildings that are positive for the Earth as well as humanity.

I hope and believe that Seratech will play a key role in this. But in some ways, maybe it doesn’t matter? If our work and this award can help inspire other young scientists, engineers, and architects to make a difference and contribution to saving the planet, then I would be more than happy.”