Market challenges for concrete technologies
December 1, 2012 by On-Site Magazine
Concrete is generally thought of as a commodity, but it’s slowly gaining acceptance in a number of new and revived applications:
Roads – Concrete paving for roads in Canada is a good example of one area that is making a resurgence. The techniques to design and construct concrete roads are much more advanced now then they were in the past. These techniques vastly improve rideability and long-term performance of a pavement. The first and whole lifecycle cost comparison of concrete design versus flexible pavement design has made concrete the material of choice in a competitive environment. The challenge remains in convincing engineers and designers that they have a choice beyond asphalt.
Self-consolidating concrete – New concrete formulas have also been slow to catch on. Pervious pavement (allows water through) provides a solution to storm water management, which becomes a whole new way for designers and engineers to improve the end performance of their systems. This new approach for storm water management challenges the normal “remove and store” principles applied by many municipalities.
Insulated concrete forms (ICFs) – A simple concrete forming system that stays in place after the concrete is cast and insulates the concrete wall, ICFs sound simple, right? Apparently there are still “old thinking” barriers and challenges preventing the systems from gaining significant market share.
The Canadian Ready Mixed Concrete Associations’ members have decided that ICFs need a substantial boost in the marketplace from our industry. Technical challenges have been fought from an industry perspective and have resulted in the development of a national standard, CAN/ULC-S717.1-12 Standard for flat wall insulating concrete form (ICF) units.
Many technical challenges still remain and as a result, the Part Nine Standing Committee of the National Building Code is in the process of establishing a task group on ICF.
Technical issues aside, the CRMCA has long recognized that there needs to be a national strategy to market ICF’s in order to increase their market share.
The CRMCA and two of its members, Ready Mixed Concrete Association of Ontario (RMCAO) and British Columbia Ready Mixed Concrete Association (BCRMCA), invited nine of the top ICF companies to a one-on-one meeting to see if there was agreement and synergy between both industries to develop and implement a national marketing strategy that could extend to all of North America. During these discussions, marketing in the three-storey-and-up buildings seem to be prime targets. One unique region identified during the meeting, where ICF commercial construction has seen over 70 multi-unit residential buildings constructed is in Kitchener-Waterloo. The largest building recently under development in the area will reach 22 storeys. The ICF group looked at this market and decided there was a success story to build on.
By closely examining success stories in the Kitchener-Waterloo region, the group hopes to identify operations and energy efficiency savings, constructability issues and efficiencies all the way back to the initial design decisions. The goal is to produce generic marketing materials based on this investigation that will confirm the short and long-term benefits and efficiencies of ICF construction.
The concrete and ICF industries recognize that now is the time to act together to grow this market based on environmental and energy savings.
Submitted by the Canadian Ready-Mixed Concrete Association.