Construction is one of the later industries to hop on the technology transformation train. Concrete contractors are striving to increase efficiency by developing newer technology to implement in their processes. With the right scope and design, your team can collaborate in a way that works best for the owner and client. There are new trends in concrete technology that many don’t know about yet.
Concrete contractors and construction companies must embrace new trends in concrete technology with open arms. Overall, one problem that the whole industry suffers from is a lack of skilled workers. These new trends in concrete technology will reduce construction costs and improve efficiency on and off the job site.
1. Project Management Software
There is construction management software made specifically for concrete contractors. For commercial construction projects, concrete and masonry contractors set the foundation. They provide services that range from site prep to finishing, timely delivery, and quality. With traditional processes, it can result in significant project delays that can cost additional money and time. With concrete construction project management, you can track real-time labor and production. You no longer have to wait for payroll or accounting reports to be processed.
Building Information Modeling has been around for decades, but technology is forever advancing. Its 3D modeling design software allows professionals the tools to see their project’s design, plan, and construction. Using BIM can help communicate the scope of the concrete project across all parties. Concrete contractors have been trying to push towards 3D, forming from 2-d for fieldwork. The entire building process becomes more efficient because there is an increase in communication with field workers, and they can see as-built formwork. BIM overall has the benefits to improve the supply chain and reduce waste, delays, and mistakes.
There are additional benefits:
— earlier identification of error and fault
— fewer change orders
— improved communication, collaboration, and productivity throughout the product
— more transparency of information that can be used during the bidding and procurement process
— more reliable design process
3. Artificial Intelligence (IoT)
GPS trackers and IoT sensors on equipment for concrete construction allows for predictive maintenance and can improve production cycles. Intelligent equipment is one of the newer concrete construction technologies because it can use human knowledge through computer processes. Adding sensors to equipment gives field workers more accurate and timely information about their assets, so there is no need for second-guessing!
There is an evolution to strength gauges, and we can understand curing and the overall concrete lifecycle. The curing and hardening processes are crucial to the final formation of cement. IoT applications can automatically regulate temperatures and humidity to ensure the adequacy of concrete properties in the chemical reactions. Although new technology is expensive, it is a necessary investment because problems are addressed, and you can prepare accordingly. Data from AI and IoT empowers concrete contractors to monitor concrete, access data quickly to make decisions in a timely manner.
Ultra-High Performance Concrete is a newer concrete technology that contains fibers but consists of mostly 80% traditional concrete. These fibers range in strength from polyester to stainless steel and ultimately deliver durability and strength to the final product. Additionally, UHPC has a longer lifespan than traditional concrete; it’s up to more than 75 years, and traditional concrete has 15-25 years. The United States is one of the key market players for UHPC. Also, the UHPC global market has an expected CAGR of 8.3% from 2019 to 2024 with a growth of USD 369 Million in 2019 to 550 Million in 2024.
Compared to traditional concrete, UHPC has distinct benefits:
— extended usage life
— improved durability
— improved resiliency
— minimal interruption
— reduced maintenance/out of service
— simplified construction techniques
— the speed of construction
5. Self-healing concrete
After construction, concrete cracks, weathers, leaks, and bends. Self-healing concrete contains limestone producing bacteria that repairs the crack when it comes into contact with air and water. Along with concrete, this self-healing bacteria can repair mortar for already existing structures. Repetitive dry and wet cycles with a width of 0.05 to 0.1mm completely seal cracks. The self-healing product acts as a capillary, and the water particles go through the cracks. Then, these water particles soak and hydrate the cement, causing it to expand, thus filling the crack. However, if cracks are greater than the width of approximately 0.1mm, other reconstructive work will be required.
Self-healing concrete is prepared in two ways:
1. By direct application:
After you mix the concrete, add calcium and bacterial spores to the mix. The process of sealing cracks occurs when water comes into contact with this bacteria, then they germinate on calcium lactate, and the production of limestone creates self-healing concrete.
2. By encapsulation in lightweight concrete:
The bacteria and calcium lactate are in clay pellets and mixed in with concrete preparations. Only about 6% of the clay pellets are actually included for making self-healing concrete. When there is a crack in the structure, the clay pellets break down, the bacteria germinate and feed on the calcium lactate and produce limestone.
6. Graphic concrete
According to the Kimmo Knappila, the CEO of Graphic Concrete LTD, “graphic concrete offers architects the versatility to deliver distinctive, intriguing, and iconic imagery to precast concrete surfaces.” Graphic concrete technology is the printing of a visual idea on a specific membrane and transferring it to a precast concrete surface. The membrane is disposable and moldable in any shape or form. This new trend in concrete technology allows custom concrete patterned surfaces. With graphic concrete, you can customize and add color pigments and different colors to enhance patterns and designs.
Graphic concrete can go on already prefabricated concrete products. Typically, graphic concrete is applied to sound barriers, pavers, facades, and interior applications. Graphic concrete is cost-effective in comparison to other precast concrete surfaces. When finished, they are ready to use, so you don’t need additional coating or surface treatments. Overall, graphic concrete can reduce construction time and keep costs down over the build.
7. Light-generating concrete
Jose Carlos Rubio Avalos developed this trend in concrete technology. This type of cement can absorb and radiate light. In terms of energy usage, it uses much less because this cement can be created at room temperature. During the day, the cement absorbs solar energy, and then it can expend light for approximately 12 hours. Now you’re thinking, how does this cement absorb solar energy? The cement does not have the crystallization supplement, and instead has a gel consistency; this allows light to pass inside.
This type of cement doesn’t require electricity, so it is typically on roadways, bridges, bike paths, and more. This is an eco-friendly alternative because the gas release in the manufacturing process is water vapor. The lifespan of light-generating concrete is about 100 years. Many light-generating concrete products emit blue or green light so that they can light roads and bridges. During production, to ensure safer environments for drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians, you can adjust the brightness level.
8. Translucent cement
Translucent concrete and cement are transferring the architectural look. This cutting edge technology consists of “fiber optics sandwiched between layers of insulation and concrete.” These fibers allow light from the outside to transmit to the inside and vice versa. Translucent cement is customizable for the structural and design requirements for the project. By this, you can determine the diameter and density of the fibers, and this determines how transparent the concrete will be. Instead of plain, regular concrete, translucent cement is chosen by designers and architects to add design aspects to structures like stairs and partition walls.
Drones are one of the new trends in concrete technology and its usage is increasing on construction sites, and we can expect the usage to increase exponentially. Primarily, drones survey and inspect sites from an aerial view that the contractor cannot. Drones finish inspections in a fraction of the time it would take traditionally. Although some construction companies were reluctant to use drones, the outcomes have benefited them immensely. For concrete professionals, drones are beneficial because they can help optimize layouts through digitation. Drones ensure that projects stay on track with the ability of increased visibility to spot potential problems.
In 2019, the Spanish architecture firm MuDD used drones to spray a cement-like substance onto fabric to “construct lightweight structures.” drones eliminated expensive construction equipment and sped up the process. It only took them five days to build the prototypes; traditionally, it might have taken them weeks. The prototype included a quadcopter drone to pray shotcrete onto fabric. For effective application of shotcrete, you typically need human operators and a crane, but with this method, you maneuver a drone to do the work.
10. 3D Printing
3D printing is not just limited to plastic and metal. With recent developments, concrete 3D printing offers the possibility in the quick build of affordable homes and communities. For concrete contractors and architects, 3D concrete printing is appealing because they can produce less-expensive buildings with less time, and handle higher dimensional analytics compared to traditional construction techniques.
Benefits of 3D concrete printing:
— low cost
— high build speed
— reduced waste
As this is one of the newer trends in concrete technology, it is not commonly used in large-scale projects. This is because this type of technology is a better fit with mid-sized buildings, structures at a low price, and quicker time span. 3D concrete printing is more eco-friendly, meaning very little material waste during the construction process compared to traditional builds. Instead of the architect or designer converting their blueprints to make molds, 3D concrete printing saves energy, time, and money by the printer’s ability to read 3D blueprint codes and immediately start printing. More and more companies will adopt 3D concrete printing to reduce costs, produce complex structures, and reduce production time.
11. Off-site construction
Off-site construction is the design, fabrication, and assembly of components at a different location than the actual installation site. Precast or prefabricated concrete is the most common type of off-site concrete techniques. Because the number of skilled labor is low, off-site construction is ideal because it is efficient, improve safety, reduce costs, increase speed, and its quality is consistent. As mentioned earlier, UHPC, Ultra-High Performance Concrete is very adhesive, which makes it compatible for use in prefabricated bridge elements and systems (PBES). With this system, you build bridge components like deck and beams, off-site, at a different location, and then install in the final location.