In today’s news, we will look into why concrete schools in the UK falling apart, and what can be done to fix the problem? In the meantime, the “customization culture” prevents building from reaching its full digital maturity. In addition to this, the decline in the housing market has had a negative impact on the growth of the construction industry in the UK. In addition, increasing biodiversity and using materials with a low impact can make construction more sustainable.
UK Concrete Schools Are Crumbling—What Can Be Done?
Original Source: Why are concrete schools crumbling in the UK — and what can be done?
Researchers believe UK school RAAC concrete safety problems may be “the tip of the iceberg”.
Reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC), used extensively in the UK and elsewhere between the 1950s and 1990s, is threatening more than 100 schools and other buildings.
The UK government announced this week that schools with RAAC must close or delay opening due to a risk of collapse.
“We’re going to start having similar problems very soon with the rest of our infrastructure,” says Sheffield University materials scientist Theodore Hanein. “Big deal.”
Nature explained to researchers why the construction material is unsafe and how to fix it.
RAAC, a 1930s concrete, was widely utilized in the UK, Europe, Asia, and North America following World War II. Concrete made of cement, lime, and sand is autoclaved at 200 °C under high pressure. Aluminium flakes added before autoclaving produce hydrogen and air bubbles with lime. Compared to normal concrete, the material is cheaper, lighter, and half as dense.
“At the time, it was a bit of a wonder material,” explains Nottingham, UK-based Concrete Preservation Technologies research scientist Christian Stone. You get to use a sixth of pricey building materials. Thermally insulating. It comes in large white blocks that stack easily.”
Why is RAAC unsafe?
In roof-mounted RAAC blocks, steel bars provide stability. This steel is protected by a latex-cement or acrylic powder covering to avoid corrosion if water seeps into the concrete pores. Over time, this reinforcement can weaken. Alice Moncaster, a sustainable-construction specialist at the University of the West of England in Bristol, UK, says this can cause concrete to “fail catastrophically and suddenly”.
Steel can rust if water penetrates into concrete and contacts it. Over time, concrete absorbs carbon dioxide, lowering its pH and increasing corrosion risk. Hanein claims corrosion can increase iron volume “up to seven times”. The expanding iron might press and break the concrete, snapping it. “Sometimes you will not see this failure,” adds Hanein. It may not bulge or crack externally. It could all happen inside.”
Chris Goodier, a construction specialist at Loughborough University, UK, believes overloading RAAC constructions or cutting the concrete for skylights and ventilation can raise failure risk. “Like any material, if you overload it, it’s going to bend a bit more,” said. “You’ll get long-term durability issues and crack more.”
What’s occurring in UK schools?
A Kent elementary school’s RAAC failed in 2018, causing a ceiling fall. There were no injuries in the Saturday incident, but the Department for Education investigated and the Standing Committee on Structural Safety and the Institution of Structural Engineers surveyed public buildings like schools and hospitals.
Goodier says much of the RAAC in the almost 2,000 hospitals in the country has been “made safe” by supplementary support, but the 22,000 schools offer a difficulty. The Health and Safety Executive declared RAAC “now life-expired” and “liable to collapse with little or no notice” in mid-August, closing dozens of schools.
To what extent is RAAC used? Will other buildings be affected?
During constrained funds and materials, UK schools, hospitals, and universities adopted RAAC widely. Philip Purnell, a materials specialist at Leeds University, UK, thinks that “between one and five per cent of public buildings built between 1950 and 1990 will have some of this material”, or “certainly hundreds, possibly thousands, of public buildings”.
RAAC in commercial structures is unknown but certainly ubiquitous. Schools “are the tip of the iceberg here”, adds Stone. This will be in industrial and office towers. Airports and council offices probably have it. Post-war reconstruction building will be it”.
Many European, Asian, and North American buildings may include RAAC. But moist, rainy weather in the UK have made RAAC’s durability difficulties more obvious than in most other areas. Stone: “The UK is pretty much the wettest place in Europe, so it’s not surprising that it got to us first.” “But it’s only a matter of time before the rest of the world has problems.” Moncaster believes climate change has worsened RAAC failure because drought can produce concrete fissures that let moisture in.
How to make structures safe?
Some short-term repairs can reinforce concrete. Surveys can identify structures at risk of failing, which can be repaired. “Depending on the weight of the [concrete] plank, a relatively short timber support may be perfectly adequate,” explains Stone. Longer boards can be supported with steel.
These protections are transitory, and RAAC may need to be replaced. “This is not a bad material,” adds Purnell. “It behaves as expected. This is a maintenance, refurbishment, and reconstruction budget failure.”
The “Customization Culture” of Building Hinders Digital Maturity
Original Source: “Customisation culture” holds back digital maturity in construction
Causeway Technologies’ Rob Ramsay claims that over-customization and lack of integration are slowing construction software’s digital revolution.
The construction sector is infamous for its delayed adoption of construction software and technology, but we are trying.
Instead, our survey of 175 construction sector decision-makers found that industry-specific software solutions lack integration, requiring staff to spend a lot of time moving data between solutions. Construction companies face software overcustomization and integration issues.
Our research shows that UK construction needs integrated construction software that covers all processes.
The majority of respondents said their company is digitizing a business process. All of those not are planning to start within a year.
Over a third of respondents still say administrative responsibilities are their company’s biggest difficulty. Manual spreadsheets are still used by 94% of organisations, and 87% believe uneven methods and technologies challenge them. This calls into question construction’s digital maturity.
Digitalization has many benefits, but construction companies often struggle to implement it.
31% of respondents say staff opposition to new technology is their biggest obstacle. 35% said they lack internal ownership and stakeholder buy-in, while a comparable percentage lack competent workers to adopt digital software solutions. 37% indicated they lack time and resources to implement solutions.
The integration value
All our research respondents employed industry-specific digital solutions, including safety and compliance (42%), infrastructure design (41%), supply chain management (40%) and cost/budget management (36%).
One of the biggest issues is that organizations use seven industry-specific solutions, 57% of which are not integrated.
Despite the benefits of joined-up systems and processes, no one reported that their organization’s software solutions were fully integrated. Most respondents have achieved 25%-50% integration, but 59% describe integration challenges and 41% lack technical support. Thus, construction firms are susceptible and lack the support they need to digitalize.
Thus, the finding that staff spend 48% of their time transporting data across industry-specific construction software construction solutions was alarming. Additionally, every company we spoke to customized these software solutions to match their needs.
These data imply that construction is increasingly using a complicated web of bespoke solutions to meet its overall business objectives.
The benefits of digital tools for sustainability
One of the most intriguing findings of our research is that digitalization, particularly the adoption of new technologies, integrated processes, and data standardization, may help construction companies meet their sustainability goals.
More than 96% of construction companies agree digital technologies would help decarbonize and improve energy efficiency. Similar numbers (94%) agree technical advancements drive decarbonization.
Technology is very important for carbon targets. 38% think technology will help benchmark carbon targets, and 33% think it will make the largest effect by supporting precise carbon levels.
Contractors use generic carbon calculators to record Scope 3 emissions because few construction product suppliers can provide reliable transaction-level data on their products’ carbon emissions due to the industry’s complicated supply networks. While valuable estimate tools, they don’t show the actual materials and goods used, making it hard for contractors to make informed net-zero judgments.
The paper emphasizes that data is excellent, but its actual strength rests in an organization’s capacity to interpret it, and employing data meaningfully benefits a firm. Connectivity and standardization of data across the construction lifecycle will enable productivity and dramatic change.
The benefits are infinite, including greater business process efficiency, consistency and simplicity of reporting, accurate and reliable data, end-to-end project transparency, on-time project completion, staff productivity and well-being, and communication.
UK Construction Growth Decelerates Due to Housing Market Turmoil and Weak Demand
Original Source: UK Construction Growth Slows On Housing Downturn, Weak Demand
The S&P Global purchasing managers’ survey showed on Wednesday that the British construction sector slowed in August due to a steep drop in house building and rising borrowing costs.
The Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply Construction Purchasing Managers’ Index fell to 50.8 in August from 51.7 in July. Score was predicted to drop to 50.5.
A number above 50 implies sector growth, while below 50 shows decline.
“Though the construction sector improved in August, several imbalances in the figures are concerning,” said CIPS Chief Economist John Glen.
Commercial building activity continued to grow substantially in August, and civil engineering output climbed at its lowest rate in four months.
House building activity was the worst, falling at the second-fastest pace since May 2020. Subdued market circumstances and reductions to new build projects hampered activity.
British construction companies received fewer new orders in August, the largest dip since May 2020.
Rising interest rates and fears about the near-term economy prompted clients to spend less, notably on residential buildings, the poll found.
Employment in the sector rose considerably in July and has slowed since July.
The study found the biggest increase in availability since January 2010 as sub-contractor usage declined in August.
Due to increased stock availability and reduced supplier capacity pressures, construction product and material suppliers’ delivery times decreased rapidly.
Construction input costs stabilized due to improved supply-demand balance. August input price inflation fell due to more competitive markets and successful supplier price negotiations to offset falling raw material costs.
Construction companies were worried about economic activity next year due to rising borrowing prices and a weak housing market.
Renewable Energy and Low-impact Materials Make Construction Greener
The UK government’s 2050 net-zero carbon objective for all industries raises environmental concerns and the need for energy-efficient constructions. In response, construction developers and contractors are adopting sustainable practices to reduce their carbon impact and green the built environment.
BREEAM and other strict sustainability criteria have grown in the construction business. These frameworks assess building environmental performance based on energy efficiency, water conservation, and sustainable materials. They evaluate a building’s sustainability and encourage green initiatives.
BRE Group, an independent, third-party certification agency that oversees environmental certification schemes including BREEAM, wants to boost government support for clean heating.
Based on current technology, heat pumps are the greatest approach to switch families to clean energy, according to BRE. Heat pumps’ continuous, lower-temperature heat may easily meet insulated buildings’ reduced heat demand.
BRE Group CEO Gillian Charlesworth said: “Our latest polling shows that there is a clear knowledge gap around heat pumps’ benefits, which needs to be addressed if we are to deliver meaningful, lasting change and decarbonize the UK’s inefficient buildings. The government and public cannot afford to miss this opportunity.”
Net biodiversity gain
BREEAM and other green building certification initiatives validate sustainable construction practises. Developers are encouraged to include green features and improve sustainability ratings with these certifications. To promote construction sustainability, industry efforts like the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) encourage collaboration, research, and knowledge exchange.
May saw the UKGBC publish recommendations to empower the built environment to generate Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG), which offers significant opportunity to restore nature and construct more regenerative towns and cities.
To make BNG accessible to built environment organizations, UKGBC has prepared user-friendly fact sheets and descriptions of essential concepts.
With support and advice from Defra and Natural England, this is the first of a series of materials to help organisations meet and exceed BNG.
Hannah Giddings, UKGBC senior adviser for resilience and nature, said nature-positive solutions help build more resilient settings, solve the climate issue, and improve people’s lives, health, and welfare. “These assets are an important step towards UKGBC’s mission of ensuring as many organizations as possible adopt BNG.”
Sustainable materials also help reduce construction’s environmental impact. Developers are using recycled, low-impact, and locally available materials to reduce transport-related resource depletion and carbon emissions. Sustainable construction methods like modular construction and timber framing are also growing due to their lower environmental impact and faster build timeframes.
“Doing more with what we have primarily means finding new engineering solutions,” said Sustainable Construction Solutions founder and managing director Charlie Law. “Future innovations may include 3D-printed wood-fibre bio-composites components, especially spare parts.”
“This saves embodied carbon, waste production, and warehouse space and transportation miles by using only the raw materials needed for the part and merchant stock. Such inventions must be publicized to ensure industry adopts them before supply issues arise.”
Stringent sustainability requirements, energy-efficient architecture, renewable energy solutions, and sustainable materials demonstrate the industry’s environmental responsibility. Sustainable construction is transforming the UK’s built environment, reducing carbon emissions and improving quality of life.
Summary of today’s construction news
Overall, we discussed the difficulties with the concrete used in UK schools are seen to be “the tip of the iceberg” by researchers. More than a hundred schools and other buildings are in danger due to a type of concrete used widely between the 1950s and the 1990s called reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC). Meanwhile, Rob Ramsay of Causeway Technologies argues that excessive customization and poor integration are holding back the digital revolution in construction management software. Besides that, a sharp decline in house construction and rising borrowing prices contributed to a slowdown in the British construction sector in August, as reported by The S&P Global Purchasing Managers’ Index on Wednesday. On top of that, a net-zero carbon aim for all UK companies by 2050 also increases environmental concerns and the demand for energy-efficient buildings. To counteract this, the construction industry as a whole is embracing green building principles in an effort to lessen its carbon footprint.