This month’s Federation of Piling specialists (FPS) podcast, sponsored by Central Piling, features Dr Jim Branch and Robin Styles from Hanson Concrete, who speak to FPS Chair Steve Hadley about one of our industry’s most important materials – concrete.
Steve begins by exploring some of the fundamentals of concrete, the constituent materials and the design processes involved before moving on to QA and sustainability. Jim, an old friend of Steve’s (see photo), explains his background and some of the historical work he has done on reducing waste and energy, before commenting on the importance of understanding what customers – the piling industry – needs from material suppliers.
From Portland cement, its origins as far back as even the Romans and through to today’s complex limestone, carbonates and silicates mixes, both Jim and Robin explain the various designations we are familiar with and how the UK’s reduced reliance on coal burning for power impacts cement production. Going into considerable detail, the various sources of raw materials are discussed and how many raw materials would otherwise be considered waste and therefore destined to landfill such as “slag” if it were not for concrete. The performance or the different blends of cements is also explained and how varying aggregate size and water / cement ratio impacts its properties.
The podcast then moves onto the specific mixes used within the piling industry, an area explored in considerable detail as the most appropriate for FPS members, and some of the challenges on both sides of the user / materials supplier divide, from ground conditions to static aggregation. A thorough discussion of the technicalities of various mixes follows including tremie mixes and how global trends and standards are helping drive cement development.
The various institutions within concrete are touched upon and how helpful they can be to both customers and materials suppliers, acting sometimes as mediators when problems are encountered. Their role in training is touched upon too.
Cement’s importance, the benefits it brings to society and how they are often overlooked in preference of the sustainability headlines it has to confront are mentioned but also how the two are not antagonistic if managed well.
The podcast concludes with Robin talking about the sustainability aspects of concrete, and what is being done to make it a much more sustainable material. In particular, where its embodied carbon comes from and what is being done to already mitigate its environmental impact – material replacement, for example, is having a huge effect on lowering carbon use.
New products, due for arrival in the next 10 or so years, are discussed and even the goal of a carbon neutral concrete is proposed and how it is not the impossibility it may at first seem.
A must listen podcast for anyone wishing to understand more about this essential of materials, its production, mixes and more relevant than ever – what is being done to make it more sustainable.