The concrete benefits of an innovative industry

The impressive trajectory of the concrete industry cannot be overstated.

From the Roman Pantheon finished in 128 AD — the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world — to the historic Brutalist masterpieces of Le Corbusier, concrete offers vast potential and can help realise spectacular structural and architectural results.

Although relatively rare following the collapse of the Roman Empire, concrete experienced a renaissance after Portland cement was developed in the mid-18th century.

Capable of being molded into almost any shape — from organic curves to stark geometric forms — concrete has overtaken steel in tonnage of material used.

Today, concrete is ubiquitous on home soil in New Zealand.

The pre-eminent global building material for load-bearing structures, concrete’s application is increasingly diverse.

In New Zealand, the wider concrete industry annually produces and utilises about one million tonnes of cement equating to around four million cubic metres of concrete for new residential, non-residential, infrastructure and commercial construction.

In total, the direct, indirect and induced economic impact of the cement and concrete industry contributes approximately $7.5 billion of output across the economy, supporting more than 24,000 jobs and creating a value add of approximately $2.8 million according to NZIER research.

At the forefront of promoting innovation in this industry is Concrete NZ; the recently formed association, with the modus operandi ‘building resilience’.

The inception of the multi-faceted organisation was a direct response to a consensus reached in 2015 that sought to examine and agree upon options to ensure New Zealand’s concrete industry could promote excellence in all things concrete, in an efficient and effective manner, that provides better value for all.

The establishment of a single, consolidated industry association was the answer, and this conviction gave rise to Concrete NZ.

In 2016, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between six participating associations. This captured the spirit of the proposed consolidation, outlining key expectations on matters of governance and operations along with setting responsibility and financial arrangements.

VALUES

If you work at Concrete NZ, if you want to be a member or if you want to be a partner, this is how it operates…

Unified

We will work hard to come together and stay unified, integrative and inclusive

Flexible

We will remain agile, reshaping with the changing needs of industry

Tenacious

We advocate for our customers – we ask ourselves the hard questions. Professional We take a factual and professional approach

Quality Based

Focused on standards and committed to quality excellence.

Concrete NZ’s role is fundamental and transformative, especially in light of the fact New Zealand’s construction sector plays a significant role in the economy.

It is the fifth largest sector, employs more than 170,000 people, and is a $30 billion-plus per year sector.

Notwithstanding these facts, Concrete NZ’s CEO Rob Gaimster eloquently summarised the challenges of the industry recently when he said, “We find ourselves in strange times. Construction is at almost unprecedented levels and the ‘job sheet’ remains full for the majority.

“Yet, we hear of businesses struggling, and in some instances going-under. Regardless of the outcome, one thing is certain – the need to innovate remains a priority.”

Innovation has become an ‘it’ word; a catchphrase of the modern time. Assessment of the term returns many understandings depending on the user and context.

But for Concrete NZ, a return to first principles sees the organisation interpret innovation as “the application of better solutions to meet new requirements or implicit needs”.

Rob will concede that a prevailing perception of the concrete industry is that it drags its heels on innovation, attributable to its status as an ‘old technology’ however, he energetically disputes and dispels this notion. Innovation is embraced with vigour and earnestness as an industry imperative by the organisation and Rob is clear about this.

“Over recent years ‘innovation’ has evolved into ‘disruptive innovation’ and is broadly interpreted as an ‘innovation that creates a new, or disrupts an existing market and value network’.

“Case-in-point are several concrete-based innovations that have the potential to disrupt the construction and concrete industries in New Zealand, and in so doing, dramatically enhance productivity.

“Also known as Cementitious Additive Manufacturing (CAM), 3D printing has enjoyed a meteoric rise, advancing quickly with a range of sample structures now in existence. The two most important concrete-based printing technologies are fused deposition modelling (FDM) and three-dimensional printing (3DP).

“While there are limitations in terms of building code coverage and the need for materials development, the immediate future will see 3D concrete printing adopted for temporary structures and architectural features.”

On the topic of ductile cementitious composite — also termed ‘Eco-Friendly Ductile Cementitious Composite (EDCC)’ — Rob is upbeat about this fibre-reinforced concrete and its role in innovating the industry.

“As seismic structural design moves beyond ‘life safety’ towards ‘building survivability’, innovations in damage-resistant design using concrete systems have emerged – the most conspicuous examples of which are PREcast Seismic Structural System (PRESSS) and of course Base Isolation.

“Advancements in cement technology are also tremendously exciting as our industry remains committed to reducing its environmental footprint. Work programmes continue to explore ways to incorporate industrial by-products (such as fly ash and slag) as well as naturally occurring pozzolans as cement replacements.”

Rob is also enthusiastic about the rise of digital tools such as Building Information Modeling (BIM) coupled with Augmented Reality (AR).

“These technologies are combining to enable genuine advancements. The realistic presentation of digital representations of building components or functions is proving hugely valuable in terms of enhanced design and construction outcomes.

“For instance, heavily reinforced concrete sections can now be modelled using BIM and reinforcement fixing checked with AR enhanced headsets.

“Add to these exciting innovations formwork pressure sensors that allow for bold in-situ construction, cast-in maturity sensors that can wirelessly monitor concrete strength gain, digital concrete delivery systems for truck tracking, as well as automated batching systems, and there is the potential for some quite dramatic design, construction and supply developments.”

Rob is confident there is an appetite for these, and other cutting-edge concepts, that will continue to transform the bricks and mortar landscape around us. “Change is inevitable. Concrete, including its constituent materials and systems, continues to compete strongly with alternative building materials to design solutions that address current and anticipated requirements.

“No one can predict the future, but I’m confident the concrete industry’s growing appetite for innovation today will yield results that advance New Zealand’s built environment tomorrow.”

Against this dynamic backdrop, the Concrete NZ Conference is due to take place — this year’s conference is the first that marks the beginning of the conference being promoted under the unified banner of Concrete NZ.

Read on to discover more about the significant opportunities the conference presents to attendees, and visit the Concrete NZ (www.concretenz.org.nz) and Conference (www.theconcreteconference. co.nz) websites for more information about this important change agent and thought leader in the New Zealand concrete and cement industry.

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