3 Concrete Innovations That Could Change The Construction Industry Forever

Concrete throughout history has literally and figuratively become the building blocks of civilization as we know it. Just a few ingredients combined and formed into bricks and other shapes, dried in the sun or ovens have formed the foundation and support of structures for centuries. We depend on its strength and durability to protect us from outside elements and find safety within the sturdiness of the structures we inhabit. Here are a few new innovations that will take concrete to new heights.

  1. Martian Concrete – Quite literally the building material of the future! Researchers at the Northwestern University, have created concrete made from the materials available on Mars.
    This new concrete does not require water which is a crucial benefit in the development of structures on the planet. Martian concrete can be made by heating Sulphur at 240 degrees Celsius which will melt it into a liquid. Martian soil is then added as an aggregate and once the mixture is cooled, becomes concrete!  Northwestern Universities research team has determined the ratio of Sulphur and Martian soil needs to be 1:1.
  1. Fire Resistant Concrete - Traditional concrete tends to chip and flake when exposed to fire, just the same as firewood crackles. The water that is trapped inside vaporizes when heated and builds pressure which causes it to break down. Researchers have found that adding polypropylene (PP) fiber to the mix creates a network of canals for water vapor to escape. Such canals are created as the fibers melt away, thus reducing the pressure build up. While the addition of PP fibers to self-compacting concrete seems to solve the fire retardance issue, it also posed a threat to the concretes ability to self-compact. Researchers found that soaking a super absorbing polymer (SAP) in water beforehand caused the fibers to swell. When the concrete sets, the water is drawn out of the SAP through the porous cement matrix which then causes the SAP to shrink, leaving behind hollow spaces inside. These spaces link up with the other hollow spaces left behind by the few melted PP fibers that were in the mix, again creating a network of canals that enable it to withstand the heat.   Sources: EMPA  NEW ATLAS

  2. Self-Healing Concrete – Concrete provides the foundations for our homes, bridges, and It’s the most common construction material worldwide. It’s ingredients consist of water, cement, and aggregate.
    Scientists have found another ingredient that when added to the mix, makes concrete self-healing – Bacteria. While Bacteria is often considered to be a bad thing, this bacteria can actually heal the cracks in concrete. When a crack forms, water has a way of seeping into the void and over time makes it larger with expansion and contraction. With the addition of these bacterial spores, the water seeps into the crack and the spores go to work germinating, and moving toward the source of the water. The bacteria produce calcite which acts as a bio-cement which fills the cracks as the bacteria move. This process is known as Biomineralization. Biomineralization is a sophisticated process and a widespread phenomenon in nature leading to the formation of a variety of inorganic minerals by living organisms [19].  From: Modern Inorganic Synthetic Chemistry, 2011


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4 Safety Practices for the Modern Jobsite

Dodge Data & Analytics (DDA), a provider of analytics and software-based workflow integration solutions for the construction industry, conducted a new study for the Center for Construction Research and Planning (CPWR).

The study asked contractors about specific practices focused on safety like reducing noise levels and fall risks, to broader practices like adopting a safe jobsite climate that includes supervisor mentorship and training.

Dodge Data & Analytics shows four safety best practices that need to become commonplace on jobsites. The study helps reveal ways that the construction industry can still improve practices to help with worker safety, health, and well-being.

For the briefness of this blog, this is how they defined different size construction companies:

  • Large companies: annual revenues of $100 million or more
  • Midsize companies: annual revenues of $10 to $100 million
  • Small companies: annual revenues below $10 million

Manage hazards before construction begins

There is a clear pattern of large companies utilizing more safety practice techniques compared to smaller companies. One area that large companies consistently perform better than smaller ones is advanced hazard planning. 42% of respondents in large companies reported that they believed their company handles advanced planning well—compared to 28% of midsize and 36% of small companies.

A similar trend appears when looking at materials-handling practices. 86% of contractors from large companies reported that they formally plan how materials will be handled once work is awarded, and 72% reported that they meet with employees for a discussion on how materials will be moved. In comparison, small and midsize companies reported they develop a formal plan for material handling, but only 54% conduct those meetings with employees.

Take advantage of online safety tools

According to the study, another way midsize and small companies can help develop jobsite safety is utilize websites and online tools that provide useful information and materials for improving safety.

Surveyors were asked if they used websites from Stop Construction Falls, Choose Hand Safety, CPWR’s Construction Solutions database, as well as the Electronic Library of Construction Occupational Safety and Health. Dodge Data & Analytics states “The gap between the percentage of contractors using them and the percentage who find that they provide value suggests that wider use of these online resources could help contractors access practices and solutions, ultimately helping them improve safety on-site.”

Mentor Subcontractors on Safety Performance

Providing health and safety related mentorship to subcontractors helps with the safety climate of a project by making sure that all workers understand the safety goals and parameters. The findings found that this type of mentorship was not common practice.

58% of respondents from large companies reported this type of safety mentorship on their projects, with small and midsize companies saying 29% and 35% provide it.

Practice Lean Construction Widely

Dodge Data & Analytics describes lean construction as “The goals of eliminating waste and improving the process of construction are frequently supported by enhanced leadership and communication across the organization. These same qualities are essential to enhancing safety, and safety is also a key performance indicator of success for lean projects.”

Many contractors in the study reported that they are familiar with lean construction, which is a huge increase from 53% in a similar study conducted in 2013.  But In the current study only 21% reported implementing lean procedures at their businesses.

Dodge Data & Analytics show there is a lot of safety practices that construction companies can focus on to improve the jobsite climate. Larger companies have the resources to ensure safety practices but there are applications smaller and midsize companies could implement to improve jobsite safety.

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