"Low energy concrete" team discusses implementation strategies with external partners

Researchers of the NRP 70 joint project „Low energy concrete" discuss implementation strategies with external partners.

The joint project team "Low energy concrete" (NRP 70) discussed potential barriers and the future implementation of the research results in the market.

Results so far are encouraging: the optimization of mixes at mortar scale, the set-up of measurements and initial performance characterization are complete. Initial environmental assessment demonstrated significant energy savings coming from the concrete optimization as well as the replacement of steel with alternatives such as wood or carbon fibres.

Below are some highlights of the discussion on the projects assessment and strategies for implementation:

  • Low carbon concrete has big potential to contribute substantially to Swiss Energy Strategy 2050 goals as the technology targets large volume of cement and concrete. The challenge is the market readiness, particularly from the producers’ side. The buy-in from producers for field applications does not seem easy due to the lack of experience (specially the fear of lacking robustness, compatibility with admixture as well as carbonation rate). Closer collaboration between cement and chemical industry to develop robust concrete mix designs is now needed.
  • There is potentially a very strong interest from the customers’ side for the glued wood-concrete hybrid structure. The main concerns are about the long-term behaviour of the wood-concrete interface, and to a lesser extent the eco-toxicity of the glue. These concerns have to be addressed as soon as possible in the project in order to convince the customers.
  • Due to a currently small market, the expected contribution of high-performance concrete pre-stressed with carbon fibre-reinforced polymer towards the Swiss energy target is perceived as low. The technology could have a greater impact if used in larger volumes. The project could then focus on demonstrating how this technology allows new design of structural elements. Long-term performance tests for the new concrete mix and the combination of materials are also essential.
  • Synthetic fibre-reinforced ultra-high performance concrete (UHPFRC) has high potential for implementation, given the large market of infrastructure maintenance. It can actually be very efficient to increase the service life of the current Swiss infrastructure. There is a need to inform potential users (infrastructure managers) to boost their interest. This can be done in coordination with the Swiss industry which is applying this new technique. Standardisation of regulatory policies for new materials and UHPFRC applications at a wider level (Europe and other countries) could also help to promote implementation.
  • For the real-time monitoring and simulation tools of structures, the monitoring technology is perceived as ready by all stakeholders. The interest it can generate for the energy strategy is still not clear from their point of view and the current project needs to come up with more quantitative numbers. Real-time infrastructure intervention could also be challenging to implement due to the traditional mind-set of constructors. Finally, another issue is the difficulty to manage big volumes of data in the future.

In conclusion, the discussion between project members, the current industrial partners and external stakeholders was extremely fruitful. It helped to identify pathways to redirect the focus of some project priorities as well as to reassure internal partners that the project was well perceived in the construction sector.

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