Construction Business – April 2011
According to a report released by Global Industry Analysts, Inc., the worldwide market for ready-mix concrete will hit more than $105 billion in the next four years. As concrete’s global market expands, the industry is entering an era of growth, challenge and change.
This growing demand is partially due to a focus on renewing aging infrastructure. But with that renewal and the overall growth come an expectation on government and the concrete construction industry to find the best methods to get the job done. The solution lies in embracing value-added products; securing innovation and technology that meet requirements and standards; and, devoting a greater effort to tightening coordination between all the facets of the construction industry.
Concrete is no longer a simple mixture of rock, sand, cement and water, but is a complex and sophisticated chemical material that can take on many forms due to value-added opportunities. The sector’s acceptance of the value-added opportunities around concrete, such as the addition of fibre, waterproofing admixtures, selfconsolidating concrete (SCC) and colour, is an innovative and necessary step forward and has been reasonably documented to date. Continuing to embrace these value-added solutions will enhance the construction of buildings and provide architects and builders with increased options. The options and opportunities for using innovative concrete materials and processes are growing each year. Today, the American Concrete Institute (ACI) and Construction Specifications Canada (CSC) are playing a major role in raising awareness of the emerging opportunities in the concrete industry. Both groups offer speakers and seminars on a wide range of concrete related systems and innovative products. At an international level, ACI provides papers on emerging technology and case studies regarding the implementation of these systems. Early adopters can learn a lot from the tools that are available and gain a competitive edge from both an economic and sustainability point of view. For example, at the next ACI convention, which is being held in Tampa Bay, Florida in early April, there will be a variety of presentations highlighting new innovations in concrete.
Savvy builders are saving time and money and reaping the benefits of long-term performance for projects such as the Vancouver international airport, by using a combination of SCC, waterproofing admixture and fibre to build an underground tunnel. New and emerging technologies may also be the next addition to future projects. It may not be too long before innovations such as “transparent cement panels” find their way in to the common specification. By bonding special resins into a new mix, it is now possible to manufacture solid, insulated, light-transmitting construction panels. Buildings made of this “transparent cement” could save owners electricity otherwise required for daytime lighting.
With these advances in concrete come relatively more efficient modes of application. While shotcrete — concrete shot through a nozzle at high velocity onto a steel-reinforced surface — was invented in the early 1900s, it is gaining ground worldwide, particularly on the west coast of North America. Southern California, for example, has seen a dramatic increase in the certification of shotcrete nozzlemen to support the demand of existing and future projects. Finding improved ways to make construction fast, efficient and sustainable is the order of the day.
The potential of concrete technology has elicited such a response from architects, developers, contractors and designers that the material has become a palette — a canvas for those with the creativity to embrace its stability and its potential to add to the allure of large public spaces and buildings. Concrete Innovation and Challenges in a Concrete World by Kari Yuers
Innovation and Technology
When an earthquake measuring 8.9 on the Richter Scale and its ensuing tsunami struck northeastern Japan in March, the tragedy shone a spotlight on the importance of safety in nuclear power stations. Intrinsic to safety are the numerous and stringent regulations regarding the use of concrete in constructing nuclear plants. The issue is that most of these 600 concrete-related standards and codes have not been updated in nearly three decades.
In February 2010, Obama signed an $8.3 billion conditional loan guarantee to start construction of the first nuclear power plants since the 1980s. While this is good news for the global concrete industry, the move raised concerns about the standards that must be addressed. It sparked a presentation by the National Institute for Standards and Technology to the American Concrete Institute. The presentation focused on the need for collaboration and support in revamping concrete standards for these nuclear power stations.
But the situation isn’t exclusive to regulations and codes for nuclear power stations. The global construction industry needs to review all its standards to ensure it is creating structures based on the latest technology and innovations. This is the only way the industry’s overall growth can be done safely, reliably and successfully.
If concrete structures — from water tanks and bridges to nuclear power stations — are to be safe and stable for their intended life span, the challenge lies in coordinating efforts within the concrete and construction industry as a whole. With projects involving multiple companies driven by different goals, government agencies motivated by different political agendas and tradespeople dealing with different materials and varied responsibilities, it could be one of the biggest challenges the industry will face.
The answer lies in a focus on quality control and using coordination and communication to achieve the best end result. It’s vital that the industry opens the dialogue and streamlines it processes to ensure everyone is working to support everything from the smallest project to the industry’s total growth.
Kari Yuers is president and CEO of Kryton International Inc. Based in Vancouver, Kryton manufactures and distributes premium products for waterproofing, repairing and protecting concrete structures. Visit www.kryton.com for more information.