To many people, concrete is a dull, grey building material. However, if more were known about the technology behind it, there would certainly be more respect for this material. ABT has a great deal of knowledge about concrete. Not just as a building material, but also as an aesthetic material in the form of fair-faced prefab concrete. In addition to the permanent improvement of standard applications, we are continually working on new applications and innovations.

Concrete technology
Our knowledge is not just limited to the design of concrete. The material has its own process and it is quite a science to learn how wet concrete, or cement, is to be made best. This science is called concrete technology. Where concrete technology, execution and design meet - great challenges lie ahead. By looking beyond the frontiers of the different disciplines, we are able to gain a lot. For example, by creating clever constructions, a designer may solve problems regarding execution and technology. This will almost always result in the reduction of risks and failure costs.

Fair-faced prefab concrete
While many people find concrete a dull and grey product, architects are proving the opposite. They are increasingly using concrete as an aesthetic material. Concrete can be made with a very smooth or, on the other hand, profiled surface. In addition, it can be provided with a wide range of colours. More and more engineering works in the public environment feature attention to architecture. The advantages of free shapes, robustness, and low costs are gratefully utilised. In the case of fair-faced prefab concrete, basically a natural product, many influences are combined into a palette of preconditions and requirements. It is an exciting discipline, combining perception and technology! Some of the projects in which fair-faced prefab concrete plays the leading role, include: Park pergola Maximapark in Utrecht, De Rozet in Arnhem, and the Minnaert building in Utrecht. In the blogs by Theo van Wolfswinkel, written for Cement, he regularly describes the many possibilities of fair-faced prefab concrete.

A new era
New developments are heralding a new era for the material concrete. For example, Frank Huijben developed Vacuumatics. This allows unlimited shapes of casings. ABT has also been working on the development of hybrid reinforced concrete. This new method of reinforcement enables the use of concrete in many different applications. Moreover, the cost of construction is considerably reduced and the life span increased.

One of the applications of concrete is to provide a water seal in building pits. This is called underwater concrete. Thanks to the clever design of these submerged concrete floors as well as their reinforcement using fibres they have found successful application. Such floors are particularly useful in cases of deep building trenches, with a depth of up to ten metres or more. In 2012, Ruud Arkesteijn received the Schreuders Award for his study into the dimensioning of underwater concrete floors.

Very high-strength concrete (VHSC) and ultra high-strength concrete (UHSC) are ready to be applied in numerous constructional as well as architectonic parts. At ABT, research and development regarding these products are in full swing. Thanks to the knowledge we have gained during the innovation of hybrid reinforced concrete, the new UHSC material can be implemented fast and efficiently.

Future challenges
The primary raw materials for cement, and therefore a part of the concrete, are becoming more and more scarce in the Netherlands. Lime in particular is becoming rather rare. It is the main component of the Portland cement clinker. As a result, secondary raw materials will be used increasingly as a component for cement. Eventually, the application of one hundred percent geopolymer concrete will be used. Depending on the applied components, this type of concrete may be made entirely of recycled materials. The secondary raw materials that may also be used in geopolymer concrete are already frequently recommended by ABT. Particularly because this will benefit the environment, while also improving the quality of the structure.  

It may be clear: the road ahead for concrete is a long and successful one. Thanks to its low costs and the possibility to mine a major part of its components locally, this material is highly future-proof. And because of the increasing possibility of creating free forms and the improvement of its technological aspects, many more applications for the material are expected to be found in future. Take, for example, concrete copies of natural stone, and more and more engineering works will be created in concrete.

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