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Contractor (June 2016) A Resilient Concrete Research Roadmap

01 Jun 2016

Rob Gaimster
Cement & Concrete Association of New Zealand (CCANZ)

In partnership with the Building Research Association of New Zealand (BRANZ) CCANZ is developing a Research Roadmap for the wider concrete industry under the unifying theme of resilience.

Canvassing opinion from within the concrete industry along with stakeholders in government, engineering and academia, the Roadmap will identify common research areas, and articulate these as a series of goals.

Specific research projects to achieve these goals will form the final component of the Roadmap.

In drafting the Roadmap a methodology is also being developed, one which examines a range of influencing factors such as resource availability and the current research landscape.

The methodology is holistic in that it studies the entire construction supply chain to ensure that concrete related research is considered across all stages.

RESOURCE AVAILABILITY

A key problem with an overarching research strategy is to accept that possible demand exceeds the resources available. As such the exercise quickly becomes, consciously or not, one of prioritisation.

The Roadmap will therefore acknowledge that prioritisation may occur, but it will be an outcome of understanding research needs.

A successful Roadmap will ensure everyone benefits, and that engagement will continue even if some sector needs don't appear to be met immediately.

CONCRETE COVERAGE

What areas does a concrete Research Roadmap cover?  Obviously materials and construction are to be included, but also that ‘something’ which allows a ‘service’ to be provided.

As an example, take the construction of a bridge.  The location and design of the bridge may make the use of concrete the preferred choice, and the bridge must be constructed safely and to the standards required.  However, the bridge will also be of immense value to the region’s economy.

When discussing a Research Roadmap, an awareness of the interplay between these different viewpoints is important to ensure optimum coverage.

CURRENT RESEARCH LANDSCAPE

The international scale of the concrete industry is huge, as is its investment in research.  For instance, prior to their 2015 merger LaFarge and Holcim spent close to 100M euro per annum.

From a New Zealand perspective, research broadly occurs within companies, universities, crown research institutes and industry specific associations or institutes. 

Although this landscape is complex, it can be assumed that research undertaken in companies is market focused, university research has an education focus, while government and independent research institutions develop sector-specific expertise with a commercial mind-set.

ADOPT, ADAPT AND ADEPT

With an appreciation of the current global and domestic concrete research landscape the Roadmap will proceed under the assumption that New Zealand will not attempt to be world-leading, but rather a mixture of customer, innovator and in a small number of cases, a front-runner.

The Roadmap will define these roles as adopt, adapt and adept.

  • Adopt - a customer of products, expertise and technologies developed elsewhere.  Examples include imported cement, admixtures, structural design innovations and software.
  • Adapt - informed selection of existing products and services but with a significant adaptation of their standard use or application.  An example might include adapting concrete admixtures for New Zealand’s high UV levels.
  • Adept - widely acknowledged as domain specific expertise. An example being capacity design principles developed by Park and Pauley at the University of Canterbury.

METHODOLOGY

To ensure the methodology for arriving at the Roadmap is inclusive, concrete related concerns across the supply chain will be accounted for - from constituent materials, concrete supply, design and construction, ownership and maintenance, as well as end-of-life.

The complex interaction between these stages of the supply chain will be considered, along with their relationship with investors, project managers and consultants.

MOVING FORWARD

Initial consultation has identified common themes based around security of supply, adoption of overseas technology and workforce demographics and capability.

These areas of concern will be teased out under a unifying theme of resilience within and across the supply chain.

The ongoing series of stakeholder interviews and workshops is helping to build a clear picture of research objectives and projects that acknowledge and respond to the theme of resilience.

Potential research projects will be assessed against probable outcomes from reasonably foreseeable scenarios. 

This final step will formulate a list of probable research initiatives, as well as complete the Roadmap methodology for possible application to other material sectors.

Article appeared in Contractor magazine.