Quality at the heart of the concrete sector

Concrete is the second most consumed substance in the world after water, with the appetite for it in New Zealand matching worldwide demand, says Rob Gaimster, chief executive of the Cement and Concrete Association of New Zealand (CCANZ).

“Huge volumes are going out producers’ gates. We’re predicting that around four million cubic metres of concrete will be produced this year to exacting standards. This is the equivalent of 4000 rugby pitches covered in 100mm thick concrete, or a six-lane road between Auckland and Wellington.”

Driving demand is the estimated $30 billion of construction activity in New Zealand this year alone.

The buoyant times look set to continue for the sector with around 13,000 new dwellings required in Auckland each year for the next 30 years, the commercial rebuild in Christchurch finally hitting its straps, and growth strong in many other regions throughout the country.

The recently released National Construction Pipeline Report 2016 (4th ed.) produced by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), BRANZ and Pacifecon paints a bright picture for the New Zealand building industry across its forecast period to 2021, says Rob.

“Auckland residential building is projected to increase by another $3.3 billion by 2017, while Waikato/ Bay of Plenty region is predicted to grow significantly. The construction industry now employs 500,000 people in New Zealand who are going to be busy for a number of years to come.”

Rob says consumers can have ‘great confidence’ in the quality of concrete production in New Zealand.

“We are ahead of the game in terms of ready mixed concrete, having had a quality assurance scheme for around 40 years. Add to that a new precast concrete quality scheme, and we are well placed.”

Procuring from a Precast NZ (PCNZ) Certified Plant or a facility that is part of the New Zealand Ready Mixed Concrete Association (NZRMCA) Plant Audit Scheme assures specifiers and purchasers that precast concrete components and ready mixed concrete are manufactured using quality systems, with audits carried out by an independent body to ensure they meet robust standards.

“These schemes provide a rigorous audit of the quality systems in place at a concrete plant,” says Rob.

Although concrete standards can be assured, in recent months there have been some quality issues around steel reinforcing mesh products and other critical building materials including glass balustrades and plumbing fittings.

“This issue has been very topical, attracting a lot of media attention. Current concerns, along with the shadow of leaky buildings, demand that issues of product performance be addressed to ensure confidence amongst architects, designers, engineers, builders and their clients.”

Seismic grade steel reinforcing mesh was one of the products in the spotlight.

“The Commerce Commission took this very seriously with its investigations revealing that a number of products did not comply with the Australia/New Zealand Standard AS/NZS 4671 Steel reinforcing materials. As a result some products were temporarily withdrawn from the market until the suppliers in question could demonstrate they had passed specific independent testing.”

In response, MBIE sought feedback on proposed updates to one of the Acceptable Solutions and the Verification Method for Building Code clause B1, in relation to testing of 500E ductile steel mesh.

“The Government is tightening the requirements for verifying that steel mesh used in New Zealand matches up to our standards. They are increasing the number of tests required, clarifying exactly how the tests are done and requiring the tests be undertaken by internationally accredited testing laboratories,” says Rob.

MBIE consultation closed 8 September 2016.

From a strictly concrete perspective, he says product assurance options are well established, with industry suppliers aware of the importance of demonstrating excellence across all areas of operation and output.

“As such, specifiers, practitioners and consumers should remain confident with their informed choices when it comes to concrete products. Our independently verified quality schemes for precast concrete and ready mixed demonstrate an ongoing commitment to safeguard product performance.”

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