Is education the key to increased sustainability in GCC concrete?

The Middle East’s appetite for construction technology and sustainability – coupled with initiatives by organisations such as the American Concrete Institute – will buoy the global concrete sector, Neha Bhatia reports

Concrete demand is expected to grow at a CAGR of 3.8% between 2017 and 2027.
Concrete demand is expected to grow at a CAGR of 3.8% between 2017 and 2027.

Increased construction activity is set to spur growth in the Middle East’s concrete sector. The GCC has 22,680 active construction projects worth $2.43tn, according to BNC Network’s GCC Construction Analytics report.

Naturally, these development schemes will require a staggering quantity of building materials, thus ensuring that the region’s concrete suppliers have much to look forward to.

In fact, concrete is a key growth market around the world – the Concrete Block and Brick Manufacturing Market 2017-2027 report revealed that significant opportunities lie ahead for the world’s concrete manufacturers.

Up to 2.79 billion units of concrete blocks and bricks are expected to be produced around the world by the end of 2027.

Between 2021 and 2027, the sector will record a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.8%, the study added.

And that’s not all – certain project categories are also likely to drive up demand for ready-mix concrete in global markets, particularly Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA). The EMEA Ready Mixed Concrete Market Research Report 2018 states that ready-mix is expected to be “widely used” by zoo and park projects around the world.

“The increasing utilisation of ready-mix concrete by institutes such as zoos is anticipated to propel its demand in EMEA,” the report adds.

However, advancements in the concrete sector – especially in the Middle East – extend beyond the remit of financial growth. A key indicator of this trend is the rapid trajectory of ‘green’ concrete, a product type that is expected to not only boost operational efficiency, but also further the sustainability goals of key regional construction markets, such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

One study claims that this shift is most visible in the reduced use of traditional cement to conserve energy and reduce carbon production.

“Many of these supplements are industry by-products, once considered waste, or naturally occurring materials that can bring the required chemistry to the cementitious mix,” according to a report by The Big 5 Heavy 2018.

“For example, ground and granulated blast-furnace slag – a by-product of the iron and steel industry – used to be dumped as trash because it is of no use, but it was found that it is extremely useful if added to cement,” Mamdouh Hamouda, engineering director at Arkan Architects, says.

“The slag can be added to cement in rations of between 30% and 60%. More importantly, it helps [to produce] dense concrete, which in turn is more durable, because it is not as susceptible to corrosion as other concrete.”

Of course, the adoption of such practices will require that there is ample understanding and awareness about concrete technology in the Middle East’s construction sector. The American Concrete Institute (ACI) hopes to play a greater role in this journey. In January, ACI released the 2018 ACI Collection of Concrete Codes, Specifications, and Practices. Formerly known as the Manual of Concrete Practice, the ACI document is the most comprehensive and largest single source of information on concrete design, construction, and materials. The collection includes nearly 50 codes and specifications and more than 200 practices, including guides and reports.

Last year, ACI partnered with the Saudi Arabia-based GCC Standardisation Organisation to develop a Gulf Building Code based on ACI’s Building Code Requirements for Structural Concrete.

The organisation, which will host the ACI Concrete Essentials Seminar Series at The Big 5 Heavy 2018 this March, is keen to share its knowledge and resources with the regional concrete sector.

“Relying on the knowledge of our global membership, ACI has generated hundreds of reports on structural concrete, concrete repair, supplemental cementitious materials, mass concrete, self-consolidating concrete, anchorage to concrete, concrete durability, and more,” Michael L Tholen, managing director of engineering and professional development at ACI, tells Construction Week.

“In addition to sharing this information with attendees at The Big 5 Heavy 2018, ACI is interested in learning about technologies and concrete innovations used by concrete professionals in the Middle East that can be incorporated into future ACI reports for the benefit of all,” Tholen concludes.

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