The latest innovations in concrete
AfriSam customers will have access to the latest innovations in concrete products and solutions, thanks to its partnership with specialist flooring and concrete solutions provider Concrete Laser Flooring (CLF). AfriSam recently announced it had acquired an equity stake in CLF, with an option to increase its shareholding over the next two years.
“The acquisition will extend AfriSam’s current product and service offering beyond the current supply of construction materials, as well as affording it a unique advantage to build closer relationships with its customers,” Amit Dawneerangen, National Multi-Product solutions Sales Manager at AfriSam, comments.
Established in 1998, CLF has introduced a number of firsts into the South African construction industry, from laser screed technology to steel fibre reinforced concrete and polished concrete. “Innovation is part of our make-up and is also one of the reasons we partnered with AfriSam. We felt that by linking up with a strong brand like AfriSam, we could extrapolate a lot more value,” Peter Norton, Managing Director, CLF, says.
“For AfriSam, it offered an opportunity for vertical integration and brand extension. It positions AfriSam as a proactive player in the marketplace. We do not only supply cement and concrete, but offer a total solutions approach to our customers’ varied needs. We are always on the lookout for new solutions, innovations and opportunities to bring to the attention of our customers, as well as advancing the knowledge and skills base of the industry itself. Therefore the partnership with CLF was a natural fit for AfriSam,” Dawneerangen says.
With its main focus on the industrial and commercial market, CLF has introduced new technology such as a patented seamless concrete flooring system. “The trend in transportation and logistics is for large warehouses that form distribution hubs. Joints in warehouse floors are points of weakness that can fail. Every time a forklift wheel goes over a joint, it can result in incremental damage. The advent of seamless technology has resulted in flooring with high strength and low maintenance,” Norton explains.
This technology can even be applied to concrete roadworks. “The shrinkage compensating admixture we use in the concrete for these large seamless floors reduces both the shrinkage and the curling, which makes it ideal for the road sector. We would like to engage with the South African National Roads Authority (SANRAL) to conduct tests in this regard, as its massive backlog of road infrastructure work represents a major growth opportunity for us.”
Another new technology introduced by CLF is the so-called ‘tilt-up’ construction method, which uses the floor of a building as a casting bed for the wall panels, which are then simply lifted into position by a crane. Another option is for the wall panels to be cast at a precast yard and then transported to site.
“That is trickier due to transportation and weight limitations, but the advantage is that pours are done in a controlled environment and are not affected by inclement weather.” Norton says that quality is improved significantly, which is an issue in the South African construction industry at the moment due to the shortage of skilled tradesmen such as bricklayers and plasterers.
Norton reveals that CLF has used the tilt-up method on 42 t columns, a record in South Africa, while wall panels can be as large as 50 m2. “The entire sides of buildings can be cast and lifted in this manner,” he says. “It is only reliant on having sufficient cranage and good spatial planning.” Tilt-up construction represents “a major growth curve” for CLF going forward, as clients are so impressed by the results that this often results in additional and/or repeat business for the company.
“The advantage for AfriSam is that tilt-up construction represents a significant increase in the demand for concrete,” Norton says. He adds that CLF has been working closely with AfriSam to perfect the mix designs necessary for advanced construction methods such as seamless flooring. “It is not difficult to make good concrete; rather it is difficult to make good concrete consistently. There is a lot of variability in the industry, often from one readymix truck to another.”
CLF and AfriSam have already collaborated successfully on tilt-up construction projects, such as a 10 000 m2 building in Pomona. “After we cast the floor, we were then requested to cast the walls as well. That was a very successful project. Such a project would traditionally have used 2 000 m3 of concrete only, but in this instance that figure doubled to 4 000 m3.”
Norton explains that CLF conducts laboratory tests on mix designs before it conducts site trials. “By the time we get to the implementation of the construction phase, there has been a lot of behind the scenes work done on the concrete.” Another example of CLF’s research and development initiatives is its work on fibre reinforced concrete, utilising both steel and synthetic forms of reinforcement.
“Traditionally contractors had to order the reinforcing and the readymix from separate suppliers; by adding steel fibres to the readymix, it can now be delivered together. This is a growing trend and offers a number of benefits, such as increased strength and versatility.” Another trend is so-called thermal concrete, which comprises cement infused with expanded polystyrene (EPS) balls. “Thermal concrete is lightweight with a high insulating factor and therefore is ideal for roofs. This represents a major benefit in terms of the ‘green’ building trend,” Norton says.
CLF supplies a range of products in support of the tilt-up construction method, ranging from lifting insets to bond breaking and curing compounds and even panel design. “An example of the synergies that we hope to be able to explore with AfriSam in this regard is to train contractors on tilt-up construction, thereby equipping them with the necessary skills to start up small businesses.”
Norton forecasts that tilt-up construction will eventually find its way into the residential sector as well. “This has been a major trend in North America, Australia, New Zealand and the Middle East. The application here is not so much for once-off, large-sized homes, but rather for townhouse complexes and multi-storey buildings as tilt-up construction is based on panel repetition. It can definitely be applied to low-cost housing as well.”
Norton comments: “I am a firm believer in innovation, and am excited at the potential initiatives we want to engage in with AfriSam. From a practical point of view, we have our own yard where we can experiment with different mix designs and provide technical feedback.” He adds that the work being engaged in by both CLF and AfriSam stands to improve the sustainability of concrete.
“A larger trend within the industry is the move towards ‘greener’ concrete, based on the understanding that cement is a finite resource and that we need to make concrete that uses less cement. There is a growing demand for this from environmentally aware property developers that are driving the trend for ‘green’ buildings. Some of the work we are conducting with AfriSam in this regard relates to activated slag mixes, and how we can extrapolate more value out of concrete but using less finite resources.
“The results to date have been very good, which is why I believe the partnership works so well. AfriSam has the cement technology and concrete production, while we have a lot of practical construction experience,” Norton concludes. Dawneerangen adds: “AfriSam is positioning itself as a total solutions provider for its customers. The partnership with CLF is a perfect example of this, driving both the demand for and application of concrete and promoting the latest advances and technologies.”
Source: Concrete TV