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Structures Research Group



Dr John Orr is an EPSRC Early Career Fellow and University Lecturer in Concrete Structures at the University of Cambridge. His teaching and research are related to sustainable construction, with emphasis placed on concrete, and structural optimisation. John graduated with a first class MEng(hons) degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Bath in 2009, winning three University Awards. He subsequently stayed in the Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering to complete a PhD in fabric formwork, Flexible Formwork for Concrete Structures, graduating in 2012. Throughout his PhD John worked in industry with Atkins, who sponsored his research through an EPSRC Collaborative Award in Science and Engineering. Dr Orr joined the University of Cambridge in 2017.

John has a strong research interest in all aspects of flexible formwork, including its potential to significantly reduce concrete consumption through optimised design processes, and its inherent architectural appeal. His work takes an holistic approach to the unique optimisation, design and construction requirements of these innovative concrete structures. Their optimised geometries mean that new analysis tools are required, and John’s recent work has focused on developing techniques for the computational modelling of concrete using peridynamics. This offers many advantages and will allow us to model all of the complex behaviour of reinforced concrete structures of any geometry, ensuring that material efficiency can be at the centre of the design process.

John is an EPSRC Early Career Fellow on project EP/M020908/1 (£1.2M FEC) “Concrete modelled using random elements”. John’s fellowship will look to reduce the global environmental impact of concrete construction through a new method for the analysis of reinforced concrete structures that is well suited to producing the optimised designs that have the potential to significantly reduce material consumption. The new analysis method will be considered alongside practical construction processes, building on previous work by Dr Orr in this field, thus ensuring that the computationally optimised form can actually be built, and the research adopted, in industry.

John is Co-investigator on the EPSRC project EP/S031316/1 (£1.5M) "Automating Concrete Construction (ACORN)", the primary objective of which is to drive acceptance of a new culture in the construction industry. One that embraces the concept of using enough material - and no more - in order to enhance sector-wide sustainability and productivity.

 John is PI on EPSRC project EP/M01696X/1 (£301k FEC) "Knitting Bespoke Reinforcement for New Concrete Structures” which will utilise woven carbon fibre in novel geometries to act as reinforcement for optimised concrete structures. Please visit the project website.

John is Co-Investigator on GCRF Project "Healthy Housing for the Displaced" led by Professor Coley at the University of Bath. This project aims to develop climate appropriate shelter for the displaced. Read more on the project website,

John is PI on a British Council UKIERI project (ICB/13-14/047) and leads an international team from the UK and India to develop the use of waste plastic as a replacement for sand in concrete. This project was featured on BBC Radio 4, in "The End of Sand" first broadcast in July 2017.

Dr Orr has also won further funding from the Institution of Structural Engineers, the University of Bath, the Happold Trust, and the Royal Academy of Engineering.

John has been lead author on two award-winning journal papers, both receiving a diploma of the Henry Adams Award from the Institution of Structural Engineers.


Key publications: 

For a list of publications click here

Teaching and Supervisions


4D7 Concrete Structures

Structures Design Course

MADE Tripos

University Lecturer in Concrete Structures
Dr John  Orr

Contact Details

University of Cambridge
Civil Engineering Building
JJ Thompson Avenue 7a
Exact location:
+44 (0) 1223 332 623
Not available for consultancy