In both commercial and residential construction concrete work is a must. Be it your concrete foundations, pre-cast concrete paneling, or stamped concrete patios and driveways, concrete is all too often the go-to material to make a property strong, aesthetically pleasing, and what’s most important, long-lasting.
But now there’s a new concrete available on the construction material market that has revolutionized a very old tried and true concrete formula. It’s called ultra-high-performance concrete and it is said to be revolutionizing how we work with the hard-as-a-rock material.
According to a new report by The Construction Specifier, while concrete has been around for several thousand years (Rome’s Parthenon is primarily constructed of concrete), the newest version of the hard stuff is called ultra-high-performance concrete or UHPC. It is also said to be creating quite a stir among U.S. residential and commercial construction professionals.
UHPC has been utilized to build beach-front homes that can withstand hurricanes. It’s been used for foundations in earthquake prone regions of the U.S. It’s also been used for architectural facades and bridges. It’s also very popular when used as a sturdy, long lasting material in connections and joints.
But new development studies are proving that UHPC will have a big impact in both the construction of new homes, commercial buildings, and transportation hubs. The pre-cast industry is taking notice of UHPC and is setting their sights on using it to increase the strength and life-cycle of their wall and ceiling panels.
What is UHPC Exactly?
First introduced as a “reactive powder concrete” three decades ago, it’s comprised of essentially the same components as traditional concrete including cement, silica fume, sand, and certain chemical materials.
But UHPC materials and their proportions are said to be optimized within the mixture. When you add steel fibers to the recipe, it creates a super strong dense concrete.
The Potential of UHPC
Says the Construction Specifier, the biggest winner in the UHPC gamble thus far is the precast concrete industry. It is said to possess the potential to improve on their existing product by utilizing UHPC since it will allow engineers to create precast panels that are light and thin. They can also create panels that possess a far longer span than traditional precast panels with less reinforcing.
Simply said, ultra-high-performance concrete is a heck of a lot more than just a new concrete mixture. It represents a revolution in how contractors rehabilitate existing homes, or construct new buildings, and structures of all varieties.
According to the founder of the Nebraska-based structural engineering firm, eConstruct USA LLC, Maher Tadros, if contractors, architects, and engineers focus only on filling joints and spaces then the full potential of UHPC will be missed. The real benefit of the new super hard construction material will come from creating new products from foundations, foundation walls, driveways, high-rises, and bridges. That’s when the real construction revolution will begin.
The Conditions for UHPC Success
Experts agree that two important conditions will be required for UHPC to undergo widespread implementation. The first is that precast concrete manufacturers will need to produce the material cost-effectively, reliably, and fast.
The second condition is that the engineering and design of new residential and commercial building systems will be an essential condition for capitalizing fully on UHPC’s truly life changing performance qualities. These new projects must then be put into development. This will, of course, take investment and commitment on the part of homeowners and commercial developers.
While UHPC is presently being utilized in lots of construction projects all over the U.S., research into its full potential continues. In fact, the Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute or PCI is said to be funding an applied research venture that’s being led by eConstruct in cooperation with the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, Louisiana Tech University, and the Constructed Facilities Laboratory located at North Carolina State University.
The main goal behind the PCI research and testing is said to develop the ability to create UHPC utilizing local, organic materials. Another goal is the development of new construction guidelines not only for everyday residential usage but more industrious ventures like long-span bridges and super-high structures that can reach beyond the clouds.
It’s important to note that the research team isn’t relying only on theoretical models developed with computer technology or even AI, but by building real models that can be tested under all types of circumstances and weather conditions.
Concrete has been around a long, long time. The Romans were famous for using the hard stuff on many of their still standing, iconic structures, like the formerly mentioned Pantheon in Rome, and the ancient city’s Coliseum amphitheater. Back then, one of the main ingredients of concrete was horse blood. Today, newer and even stronger materials have been developed that will ensure a structure created from UHPC will outlast mankind itself.