News & Views

Concrete Forum 2024: Paving the Way for Sustainable Ground Engineering

On February 22nd, London’s City Hall became the epicentre of ground engineering and concrete utilisation discussions as the venue for the FPS Concrete Forum 2024. Organised by the Federation of Piling Specialists (FPS), this so far unique event drew industry leaders, experts, and stakeholders together to deliberate on and share the challenges and innovative solutions shaping the future of construction, particularly within the realms of concrete and ground engineering.

Uniting for a Sustainable Future

The event was kicked off by Steve Hadley, Chair of the Ground Forum and Managing Director of Central Piling. He underscored the critical role of concrete in ground engineering, highlighting its substantial impact on construction projects and its notable consumption, accounting for 5% of the UK’s concrete volume. This set the stage for a day focused on addressing the challenges specific to this sector.

Driving Sustainability from Design

The keynote was delivered by John Chick, FPS Chair and Business Leader of Expanded Geotechnical. Chick highlighted the enduring significance of concrete, tracing its roots back to ancient architectural marvels and confronting the modern-day challenges of sustainability in its production and application. He called for a unified drive towards sustainable, responsible concrete utilisation, emphasising the importance of not only sensible, sustainable design, but redefining and owning the narrative surrounding construction and its positive impact on environmental, social, and economic sustainability, via the technical and scientific progress we are making.

Concrete – From Specification to Supply and All Points In Between

Dr. James Branch, Regional Technical Manager (Concrete) at Heidelberg Materials UK, provided insights into the journey from concrete specification to supply. He discussed the main constituents of concrete, their impact on composition and performance, and the importance of precise enquiries to ensure the most suitable application. His talk also covered the crucial acceptance tests and project-specific trial processes.

Sampling and Control with Changing Mixtures

Matt Oliver, General Manager at SOCOTEC UK, closed the morning session emphasising the significance of adaptive testing strategies in the face of changing concrete mix designs. He advocated for rigorous quality control through best practices in sampling, manufacturing, and curing of compressive strength specimens.

A Confluence of Expert Insights

Following a networking lunch, the event moved to a panel discussion featuring contractors and suppliers in conversation about common issues. Discussions revolved around concrete specification, on-site sampling practices, and managing consistency in material quality. The panel, chaired by Steve Hadley and comprising industry veterans; Danny Bunting, Chris O’Shea, Kevin Paterson, Mark Boden, and Paul Wiltcher, gave a rich exchange of perspectives on navigating the challenges and opportunities in concrete supply and its use.

The EFFC/DFI Guide to Tremie Concrete for Deep Foundations

Chris Harnan, Managing Director at Ceecom Geotech, presented and discussed the EFFC/DFI Guide to Tremie Concrete (more information on which can be found here: https://www.effc.org/media_corner/effc-dfi-guide-to-tremie-concrete-for-deep-foundations-2nd-edition/), focusing on workability, stability, and the adoption of new testing methods. He outlined efforts to incorporate these standards into the new European Concrete Standard (EN 206) and revise the guide for broader acceptance.

Digging Deeper – Unveiling the Centre of Excellence for Modern Construction

Philip Muff, Contracts Manager at Explore Manufacturing (Part of Laing O’Rourke), took the post lunch baton, and introduced the Centre of Excellence for Modern Construction. He discussed how it integrates into projects to provide benefits and shared insights into their carbon reduction strategy, balancing production outputs with environmental considerations.

Lower Carbon Concrete, Today and Tomorrow

Presenting another keynote, Paul Astle, Decarbonisation Lead at Ramboll, offered an overview of current and future strategies for reducing the embodied carbon of concrete. He discussed the importance of immediate actions and the potential of new concrete technologies to contribute to a

The Science of Concrete as a Fluid

Closing the event, James Blackwell, Technical and Innovation at Martello Piling/Franki Foundations, addressed the complexity of concrete mixes. He used the forum to simplify the understanding of concrete as a viscous fluid, illustrating how it may be possible to enable better predictions of pumping issues and potential adjustments to mixes to avoid these in the first place.

Conclusion: A Foundation for Change

The Concrete Forum 2024 marked a significant milestone in the journey towards sustainable ground engineering and concrete utilisation. The event highlighted the industry’s commitment to tackling contemporary challenges through innovation, collaboration, and a steadfast commitment to sustainability, paving the way for a more sustainable construction future.