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There are many challenges facing today's construction industry. Demand for ever faster and more cost effective construction must be answered with solutions that ensure high levels of long-term performance and sustainability. In addition to meeting these generic challenges, construction must meet the specific demands of particular projects. These may range from meeting the deadlines and fulfilling the aspirations of the 2012 Olympics to confronting the harsh environment imposed upon sea defences, or from ensuring that homes remain comfortable in the face of the global warming to allowing homes to float above the danger of flooding.

As a construction material, the versatility of concrete with its unmatched intrinsic benefits - such as inherent fire resistance, thermal efficiency, sound insulation and long-term robustness - means that it is well placed to meet all these challenges. This is demonstrated by the projects examined in this year's New Concrete Engineering supplement. These encompass a formidable range of challenges from building the structures for the London Olympic Games to projects which are focused on solving a particular problem such as the provision of safe vehicular restraint on our motorways or the fast construction of road and rail bridges.

The challenges faced by construction today may not necessarily be the same as those in the future. However, an ongoing programme of innovation and product development means that concrete should continue to provide cost effective solutions that are able to turn a challenge into an opportunity.

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