Earthquake-Resistant Concrete Products
Concrete Suppliers and Researchers are Creating Innovative Products to Build Safer, Earthquake-Resistant Structures
Earthquakes are unpredictable natural disasters that threaten our homes, buildings, and safety. And while we don’t have any control over earthquakes, we can take precautions to make our structures as safe as possible, especially when devastating earthquakes hit.
One proven way to build stronger, safer homes and buildings is by using reinforced concrete. Concrete suppliers offer reinforced concrete products to build earthquake-resistant structures. Researchers are also creating earthquake-resistant concrete products to upgrade schools in earthquake-prone areas.
Insulating Concrete Forms
With the use of steel-reinforced concrete and insulating concrete forms (ICFs), concrete contractors are building structures that can withstand the strong forces of earthquakes. For a structure to be earthquake-resistant, it must have the following characteristics: stiffness, strength, and ductility (flexibility).
The optimal building design for earthquake-resistance includes:
- Shear walls that are well-anchored to the foundation—using steel reinforcing bars across the joint and between the walls and foundation;
- Walls that are the entire height of the building on all four sides; and,
- Solid walls with minimal openings, such as windows and doors.
Reinforced concrete walls using ICFs can withstand an earthquake’s strong sideways forces, known as racking and shear. The strength of concrete cast around steel bars provides the ultimate earthquake-resistant foundation and walls. The concrete is strong enough to resist the compression forces of earthquakes, while the steel reinforcement bars are ductile enough to resist tensile forces.
Compared to other building designs, such as wood-frames, un-reinforced concrete or masonry, and column-only ground floors in multi-story buildings, reinforced-concrete structures are significantly stronger and able to withstand earthquakes while experiencing minimal damage.
Eco-Friendly Ductile Cementitious Composite (Edcc)
In an effort to build safe, earthquake-resistant structures, researchers at the University of British Columbia (UBC) have recently created a composite material that is strong and ductile like steel. EDCC is a fibre-reinforced concrete product that, when sprayed 10-mm thick onto the surface of poured interior concrete walls, will enhance the structure’s earthquake resistance.
Upon testing this product, researchers found that it is able to withstand earthquake forces of up to 9.0-9.1 magnitude—the same severe earthquake magnitude that devastated Tohuko, Japan, in 2011, and led to a devastating tsunami and nuclear power plant meltdowns.
High-risk schools in British Columbia and India will be the first to use this earthquake-resistant concrete product since these areas are prone to earthquakes. BC plans to eventually upgrade all high-risk schools as part of an earthquake protection retrofit program.
Aside from saving lives, EDCC is also eco-friendly. This composite is mostly made from fly ash—an industrial by-product—polymer-based fibres, industrial additives, and little cement. Cement production is a large contributor to carbon dioxide emissions, so it’s quite sustainable to develop a product that relies very little on cement production.
Devastating earthquakes can happen at any time, leaving entire cities at risk of injury and death. And like all natural disasters, there is nothing we can do to prevent this devastation, but we can take steps to prevent as much damage as possible. Reinforced concrete products from concrete suppliers and researchers are leading the way for safer, earthquake-resistant structures that will save buildings and lives.
From Open Stone Quarries to Underground Mining
Why Some Companies are Choosing Underground Mines over Quarries
For centuries, stone quarries have provided us with the best resources to build cities and structures. Our urban landscapes wouldn’t be the same without the use of products from stone quarries. But like many of Earth’s resources, there is only a limited amount of stone available in an open quarry. After years of quarrying—sometimes even hundreds of years—the surface reserves in quarries eventually empty. This forces stone companies to find alternative ways to extract resources to supply builders with these valuable products.
One solution to the limited surface reserves of open stone quarries is to mine underground. As quarries gradually empty over time, companies either need to find another location or make use of the land they already have. For international stone quarries, some of which have been operating for centuries, there are several advantages to making the switch to underground mining.
Additional Stone Reserves
When a stone company runs out of reserves in their open quarries, they still need to source stone to keep the business going and to supply stone products to meet global demand. But instead of moving on to another location to quarry, some companies are staying put and using the stone reserves underground. While this may be a costly endeavour at first, the benefits of mining seem to outweigh these new costs.
Underground mining provides enough reserves for a lifetime—about 50 years. For companies who can’t quarry elsewhere, this keeps the business going for a much longer period of time.
Improve the Landscape
When stone companies opt to start mining underground in the same location as the existing quarry, they are preserving the land elsewhere. This helps protect natural landscapes and habitats from quarrying. However, responsible stone companies will reclaim their used quarries, creating natural landscapes that benefit the environment, wildlife, and residents.
Less Disturbance to Residents
Underground mining isn’t just less of an eyesore to neighbouring residents, it’s also less disruptive compared to open quarrying. Mining underground reduces noise, carbon emissions, and puts less dust in the air, leaving air quality untouched for nearby residents.
As the world’s population continues to grow, demand for stone products to build and expand urban infrastructure will persist. But since each stone quarry only has a limited amount of reserves, stone companies need to use alternative methods to source the stone. Underground mining in the same location as the open stone quarries is one reasonable way to do this.
Tips for Using Ready Mix Concrete in Cold Weather
How to Maintain the Strength of Fresh Ready Mix Concrete in the Colder Months
Pouring concrete in cold weather is inevitable for contractors who work in colder climates such as ours. The colder seasons take up a good portion of our year, leaving less warm and hospitable weather to pour concrete successfully. Since concrete loses its compressive strength, durability, and weather resistance if it freezes during the pouring and setting process, it is imperative for concrete contractors and suppliers to protect concrete from the damage of cold weather. So, if your project requires you to have to pour concrete in the colder fall and winter months, consider these steps that you and your ready mix concrete supplier can take to maintain the concrete’s strength and durability even when it’s cold out.
Change the Mix
When ordering your concrete mix, let your ready mix concrete supplier know that you intend to pour it in colder temperatures. They will take the necessary measures to mix the concrete appropriately for cold weather. These changes in mixing could include:
- Using hot water in the mix to maintain a warm temperature throughout transportation;
- Adding more cement to heat up the concrete and speed up the hydration (drying) reaction;
- Using high-early strength cement that will set and cure quickly;
- Using air-entrained concrete to decrease bleeding;
- Determine (test) the slump of the concrete at less than four inches;
- Adding accelerators to the concrete mix to speed up the setting time that is usually longer in cold weather. Accelerators increase the hydration reaction so the concrete will cure faster;
- Not using fly ash and slag cement in cold weather because they generate less heat and set slowly; and,
- Not using admixtures on site if they have frozen.
Protecting Concrete from Cold Temperatures
When the air temperature drops below 4 degrees Celsius, you must take precautions to keep the concrete warm and avoid losing compressive strength during the setting process. Here are some ways to ensure that the concrete stays warm, sets and dries well, and maintains strength even when the outside temperature is cold:
- Set up insulation and vented heaters prior to pouring the ready mix concrete;
- Avoid placing concrete on frozen subgrades—either thaw the subgrades with steam, or place insulation between subgrades and concrete;
- Apply triple-insulation thickness at the corners of walls and edges of slabs;
- Protect the concrete from freezing until it reaches the compressive strength of 500 psi;
- Avoid exposing concrete to rapid drops in temperature —reduce the temperature gradually over a 24-hour period when removing insulation and enclosures;
- Don’t leave heaters unattended since they are a fire hazard and may stop working throughout the setting process; and,
- Keep forms in place for as long as possible to ensure even distribution of heat and to avoid overheating and drying.
Although working in cold weather is inevitable for Canadian concrete contractors, the quality of concrete doesn’t have to be compromised once the temperature drops. By keeping these tips in mind, you and your ready mix concrete provider can make sure your concrete project is successful, even if the weather may be too cold for comfort and concrete.
How and Why Concrete Products Corrode
A Look at the Cause of Concrete Corrosion and how it’s Being Addressed
Corrosion is the leading cause of damage to reinforced concrete. As a reinforced-concrete structure ages, the metal rebar rusts and threatens the structural integrity of the concrete. These structures require regular testing and fixing to slow down the corrosion process. The costs associated with testing for corrosion and making the necessary repairs are high. However, there are innovative testing methods and corrosion-free reinforced concrete products that can reduce these costs over time.
How Concrete Corrodes
Over time, CO2 and chloride from de-icing salt seep into reinforced-concrete structures, causing the steel rebar to rust. Since rust has a greater volume than steel, rust will cause rising internal pressure that will eventually crack and damage the concrete.
Rebar corrosion can also lead to delamination—the separation of concrete layers over time. Delamination threatens the structural integrity of bridges and other concrete structures, requiring regular inspections and testing as well.
Testing Corrosion in Concrete
As reinforced-concrete structures age, the risk of corrosion increases. Frequent testing for corrosion is necessary for the safety of these structures. If inspections find signs of corrosion, these structures will require repairs to fix the damage and slow down the corrosion process.
The normal method of testing for corrosion is costly because it requires extracting a piece of concrete and bringing the sample to a lab for testing. But new, unobtrusive testing methods are showing that concrete corrosion can be tested without extraction and the high costs associated with the usual testing process.
Connectionless corrosion rate measurement is a new technology that is more cost-effective and precise. These new testing systems measure the electrical response of the steel rebar to determine the presence and rate of corrosion. A combination of electrical-resistivity sensors and radar penetrating the concrete allow for an accurate measurement of corrosion without the need to extract any concrete.
There is also a delamination testing system for bridges that uses acoustics to detect any structural damage. This system is accurate, fast, and provides early warnings of delamination. This lets concrete workers make repairs before the damage worsens or causes serious safety risks. These fast and effective testing systems save engineers and concrete contractors plenty of time and resources.
High-Alloy Steel as A Corrosion-Free Solution
Although costly at first, high-alloy steel is an alternative rebar material for reinforced concrete that won’t rust and lead to corrosion. The cost-savings over time from minimal testing and repairs—if even necessary—make this type of reinforcement a wise investment for the construction of new concrete structures.
Reinforced concrete provides the strength we rely on for structures to remain durable. But the natural process of rusting in rebar, and the resulting concrete corrosion, are costly to test for and repair. These issues only get worse as these structures get older. So building structures with corrosion-free concrete products, like reinforced concrete with high-alloy steel, is a cost-effective and safe solution. And for existing structures, these innovative testing systems help save engineers and workers significant amounts of time and money while providing accurate results for the enhanced safety of concrete structures.
Reduced, Reused, And Recycled Aggregates for Hot Mix Asphalt
How Reclaimed Asphalt Pavement is Reducing Time, Costs, and Waste Product When Used in Hot Mix Asphalt
Reclaimed asphalt pavement (RAP) is proving to be a popular and valuable material in the construction industry. It doesn’t just save time and costs during production, it also reduces the amount of waste product in the production of aggregates and hot mix asphalt. RAP is either reused in situ or a product of recycled aggregates mixed with hot mix asphalt.
Asphalt is the most recycled construction waste product around the globe. It offers a variety of uses in construction projects, including aggregates for:
- Railway ballast, and
- Fill materials for city infrastructure.
Reduced Time & Production Costs
Along with the flexible uses, RAP reduces extraction and production costs. Reclaimed asphalt decreases the amount of raw materials needed from quarries along with the costs for processing raw materials. And since quarries have only a limited supply of aggregates, reusing asphalt is a sustainable option.
Concrete suppliers also save plenty of time throughout the production process—from reducing the need for extraction from quarries to processing time. And for in situ uses, there is less time wasted on transporting asphalt since the asphalt is reused in the same location.
Reduced Environmental Impact
When using recycled materials for the production of hot mix asphalt, there are a number of environmental benefits, including a reduction in:
- Fossil fuels used for extraction, production, and transportation;
- Emissions from fossil fuels;
- Waste product; and,
- Pressure on quarries to keep up with the demand for aggregates.
Reclaimed asphalt decreases the amount of raw materials needed from quarries, which have a limited supply. For areas without local quarries, in situ asphalt recycling prevents the need for transportation of new aggregates. This reduces transportation costs, heavy loads burdening roadways, and fuel emissions that harm air quality and the environment.
It’s now standard practice for concrete suppliers to use reclaimed asphalt in the production of hot mix asphalt since it reduces waste product at production plants. However, the amount of RAP used in hot mix asphalt depends on the project’s concrete performance requirements. Some concrete products can use more RAP in the mix than others.
The concrete construction industry now widely uses reclaimed asphalt pavement. Concrete suppliers are reprocessing reclaimed asphalt with high levels of quality control. And the use of construction machinery to reuse asphalt in situ is saving significant amounts of time and costs. Along with being cost-effective throughout the production and construction processes, RAP is also providing an environmentally-friendly and sustainable option for an ever-growing industry.
Snow-Melting Concrete Products Are Almost Here
Researchers Have Found a Method to Create Concrete and Pavement that Melts Snow
With winter just around the corner, snow plows, salt trucks, and hazardous driving conditions will soon be a regular occurrence on our roads. While we all dread the harsh winter conditions, we’ve come to accept this unpleasant weather as a part of Canadian life. But imagine if the roads cleared themselves of snow and ice on their own—instead of waiting for the snow plow to come by, the snow would melt with the help of heated pavement.
Thankfully, researchers have found a way to create snow-melting concrete. By mixing paraffin wax with concrete products, this new concrete warms and melts the snow and ice when the temperature drops. This new concrete mix can melt snow more efficiently than salt and is also more environmentally friendly.
The copious amounts of salt used on roads every winter contribute to the fast deterioration of pavement and vehicles while also depositing huge amounts of salt in the environment. Salt is costly to use and to distribute on roads all winter long, and the cost of repairs needed from salt damage add up. A cost-effective, environmentally-friendly solution to snow removal is a must for areas hit hard by winter.
How It Works
This snow-melting concrete relies on the phase-change material quality of paraffin oil. Phase change materials store heat and emit heat during the winter. When the paraffin oil freezes from liquid to solid, it releases thermal energy (heat).
Concrete treated with paraffin wax melts snow by warming the concrete during the phase change process of freezing. During product testing, researchers found that treated concrete melts snow within a day, while untreated concrete leaves snow intact for the most part.
Paraffin wax is a low-cost material, so mixing it with concrete products could be a cost-effective and convenient way to keep roads clear during the winter. This would also reduce the amount of salt deposited on roads and in the surrounding natural environment. This paraffin snow-melting discovery is likely to be a time-saver at airports in cold climates. Often, airports face lengthy delays and cancellations during the winter months, which cost airlines millions of dollars each year.
Airports must also constantly stay on top of keeping runways clear of ice and snow. Airport runway pavement that melts ice and snow with the help of paraffin wax could result in fewer delays and cancellations in the winter, making airlines and airport operations more efficient, saving significant costs.
Researchers still need to test how paraffin wax affects concrete in the long run. Concrete durability, stability, and skid-resistance can’t be compromised. But if cleared for use on roads, this innovative solution will have a positive impact on road safety in the winter, while saving millions of dollars on salting roads, and reducing the harmful amounts of salt entering the environment each year.
Photocatalytic ‘Smog-Eating’ Concrete
This Innovative Discovery Has Caught the Interest of Concrete Suppliers and Scientists Alike
As the world’s population grows, so does the amount of polluted land, water, and air. Natural ecosystems and air quality continue to degrade, only getting worse as more emissions and waste enter the environment. This is a grave concern for natural habitats and the humans that inhabit them.
One major concern is the lack of clean, breathable air in densely-populated cities. When air quality is poor—i.e. with a smog advisory on a humid summer day—those with weakened immune systems and respiratory problems face serious health risks if they go outside and breathe in the polluted air. There are even cities where people opt to wear a mask to protect themselves from the pollutants in the air.
Raising Awareness and Making a Change
Thankfully, the expanding environmental awareness in recent years, especially with the threat of global warming, has influenced the growing interest in green technology. We’re seeing an uprising in the production of innovative technological solutions that are designed to help the environment. From electric cars to solar-paneled roofing tiles, scientists and innovators are making progress for a better, cleaner tomorrow.
One innovation that has caught the attention of both scientists and concrete suppliers alike is smog-eating concrete.
What is Smog-Eating Concrete?
This concrete is mixed with titanium dioxide to become photocatalytic. When exposed to UV light, the titanium dioxide will decompose organic materials and airborne pollutants. Not only is this concrete able to stay clean by preventing bacteria, mold, and mildew growth, but it can clean the air of smog-producing chemicals such as nitrous oxides, sulfuric oxides, benzenes, and aldehydes. However, this concrete has only worked effectively to reduce air pollutants in hot climates so far.
Making Strides Against Pollution
In Ontario, researchers are having difficulty measuring the effectiveness of experimental photocatalytic concrete panels installed along a highway in Toronto. This ineffectiveness may be due to the freeze-thaw cycle that affects concrete, along with the salt used on roads in the winter months. But in hot, humid regions without a freeze-thaw cycle—such as Australia, India, and Hong Kong—this concrete is more effective and commonly used in construction. Italy has even seen a decrease in air pollutants since using photocatalytic-concrete-based paint to coat the walls of tunnels. With the help of UV lights, these walls stay clean and white for visibility, while also reducing smog.
One Step at a time
While there’s still much work to be done, especially for Canadian scientists and engineers, this smog-eating concrete is an exceptional innovation to help both the environment and humans to live with cleaner air, especially with the environmental effects of the ever-growing global population. If more concrete suppliers get on board with this photocatalytic concrete, and more construction companies build with it in densely populated areas, they can help to reduce harmful vehicle emissions and smog. By cleaning the air, more people will be able to breathe in fresh air without harming their health.
Introducing the Latest Ingredient in Hot Mix Asphalt—Cigarette Butts
Researchers Are Recycling Cigarette Butts for Use in Road Surfaces to Further Help the Environment
Since waste will only get worse as the global population increases, researchers are coming up with clever ways to recycle waste and help the environment. Cigarette butts are one example of waste that will only get worse over time. They litter the environment and make up a huge amount of toxic global waste. But researchers have found a way to put them to good use. By mixing cigarette butts with hot mix asphalt, this asphalt will reduce waste, trap toxins, and create a porous road surface that reduces the urban heat island effect while safely managing storm-water runoff.
How the Porous Asphalt is Made
In an effort to curb the mounting global cigarette-butt-waste problem, researchers looked for a way to reuse this waste in an environmentally friendly way. But since cigarette butts are full of harmful chemicals that pollute the environment, researchers had to make sure these chemicals wouldn’t leach out. Before adding the butts to asphalt, they first coated them with paraffin wax, and then with bitumen—a petroleum base also known as asphalt. After coating the butts, they mixed them into hot mix asphalt to create this porous asphalt for road surfaces.
Storm-water runoff is a major environmental concern, especially in urban areas. If not properly managed, stormwater runoff will pollute waterways and ecosystems by washing all the toxins, chemicals, and contaminants on pavement into nearby waterways. However, the porous road surface of this cigarette-butt hot mix asphalt can effectively manage storm-water runoff. Instead of the rain washing harmful chemicals and contaminants into waterways, the water can pass through the porous asphalt and be safely absorbed into the soil underneath. The soil acts as a natural filtration system so that these contaminants won’t reach the waterways.
The Urban Heat Island Effect
The urban heat island effect refers to how urban areas are usually several degrees hotter than rural areas due to the higher amount of pavement (buildings, roads, sidewalks) and less vegetation throughout cities. Paved roads and buildings absorb more light and emit more heat (thermal energy), especially when they are dark in colour. While vegetation provides a natural cooling effect on the air during evaporation, the lack of plants in cities means less naturally-cooled air. During hot weather, the urban heat island effect leads to the frequent use of air conditioners, placing a higher demand on energy consumption, and emitting more greenhouse emissions.
But there is hope to reduce this urban heat island effect with porous asphalt. Compared to regular pavement, this asphalt will trap less light and heat, emit less thermal energy, and allow for the evaporation of water in and below the asphalt.
As these researchers concluded, cigarette butts aren’t going anywhere. They will continue to litter the streets across the globe, so we may as well make use of this ever-abundant supply of waste to benefit the environment. Instead of leaving butts on the pavement, we can mix them with hot mix asphalt to become a part of the pavement, and further help to reduce the pollution that’s harming our planet.
Local Stone Quarries Offer Eco-Friendly Materials
Why You Should Choose Natural Stone and Aggregates from Local Stone Quarries for an Eco-Friendly Option
Whether you’re using natural stone or aggregates for your construction projects, local stone quarries offer the materials you need, all sourced in an environmentally-friendly way. You can find natural stone and aggregates for a variety of uses while reducing your environmental footprint. Compared to other building materials, those sourced from local stone quarries offer these many great environmental benefits.
Natural stone and their aggregates are naturally-occurring resources. They do not require other materials or resources for their production. This conserves water, energy, and other resources during the extraction process. This conservation of resources also means fewer emissions, pollution, and waste during production.
There is an abundant supply of these materials in local stone quarries, offering various natural colours, veining, textures, shapes, and characteristics suitable for a variety of building uses. And since no harmful chemicals or toxins are present natural stone, these products won’t harm you or the environment. Natural stone also creates fewer kilograms of CO2 per ton compared to other building materials, such as timber, brick, cement, and steel.
Natural stone is durable and can last almost forever. It needs little maintenance, requiring less energy and water for upkeep. This material can withstand high traffic and extreme temperatures without warping and needing repairs or replacement. The long life-cycle means less demand overall for resources for the creation of new building materials.
Due to the long lifespan of natural stone, it’s possible to salvage and repurpose this material. The use of recycled stone further reduces the energy, water, and resources needed to create other building products. And if stone happens to end up in a landfill, it won’t leech any harmful chemicals into the Earth. Both of these advantages will reduce the negative impact of material production on ecosystems and natural resources.
Since local stone quarries are nearby, this proximity reduces costs, transportation time, fuel consumption, and emissions for transporting the materials to customers. Local stone quarries also take precautions to prevent environmental damage with modern mining techniques and will reclaim the quarries to improve the landscape and environment. Often, reclaimed quarries end up as natural ecosystems that provide habitats for wildlife, vegetation, and natural landscapes for people to enjoy.
Natural stone and aggregates from local stone quarries offer a durable, environmentally-friendly option for building materials. These materials are versatile, suiting a variety of needs for projects large and small. Consider these many sustainable benefits when choosing building materials. The durability and eco-friendly characteristics alone make these worth the investment for your wallet and the environment.
How to Protect Your Concrete Foundation
Tips and Tricks from Concrete Companies on How to Protect Your Home’s Foundation
Although home foundations are essentially large slabs of concrete built to last, changes in the surrounding environment can lead to damage over time. The biggest culprit for foundation damage is water. If there isn’t enough water, your foundation can dry out, shrink, and crack. But cracking can also happen with too much water around your foundation. To prevent cracking and to repair cracks in your foundation, consider these tips from concrete companies.
Inspect the Foundation
Make sure the top six inches of your foundation is clean and clear on the outside of your home to provide proper air circulation. Keep an eye out for cracks and moisture in your foundation. If there are small cracks, you can repair them easily. However, if the cracks expand, you may need professional help for repairs. Take note of the size of your cracks to see if they expand over time.
There are two types of moisture sources that affect a home’s foundation: condensation and hydrostatic pressure. Often, basement walls are wet from condensation. To test this, use duct tape to secure a rectangular sheet of aluminum foil or plastic wrap on all four sides on your basement wall. After two days, remove the patch. If the wall behind the patch is dry, you have condensation. But if it’s wet, you have hydrostatic pressure. To prevent further damage from hydrostatic pressure, you should address the water source immediately.
Hydrostatic pressure is a result of water trapped around your foundation. Pressure from the water grows and eventually pushes through the walls. Water seeping through cracks in the foundation is the most obvious sign of this problem.
Smaller cracks are easy to repair on your own. But for severe cracks to your home’s foundation, a professional—such as a structural engineer—should do the work to ensure that it is structurally sound and safe.
For cracks that aren’t expanding, and don’t require a structural engineer to repair, you can order foundation repair supplies from concrete companies. Use a mortar for patching if the crack is dry, or hydraulic cement if there’s leaking water. Once repaired, you can seal the foundation walls with a crystalline waterproofing material.
If your region has experienced a dry summer, keep your foundation moist by occasionally watering it from the outside. If there is condensation in your basement, use a dehumidifier, insulate pipes, and ensure pipe joints are tightly sealed. To prevent hydrostatic pressure, avoid piling snow along the walls of your home during the winter, keep your window wells clear of snow, and make sure water flows away from your home with clean gutters and downspouts that drain water 10 feet away. Proper grading is also a must—the ground should slope away from your home to prevent hydrostatic pressure. For water buildup around your foundation, such as pooling after rainstorms, install in-ground drains (i.e. a French drain), or adjust the grading of your yard.
As an extra precaution, avoid having trees and plants growing close to your home. If plants block air circulation, they can trap moisture in your foundation. Trees will also suck up the moisture needed to prevent shrinkage and cracking in a foundation, and their expanding roots can damage the foundation as well.
Contact your local concrete company for more information on the best products and methods to maintain a strong foundation for your home.