Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Final Report Summary - EIROCRETE (Development of sustainable, lower carbon, pre-cast concrete infrastructure)

A four-year collaboration involving academics and industrial partners in the UK, Ireland and Italy has created new approaches and products for the European construction industry that promise major economic benefits and a significant reduction in impact on the environment.
The Eirocrete project has been funded by a European Commission FP7-IAPP grant, a Marie Curie Action scheme to encourage links between industry and academia. It has been driven by researchers from the School of the Natural and Built Environment at Queen’s University Belfast along with colleagues at Polytechnic of Milan and two leading companies – Banagher Precast Concrete in Ireland and Azichem Ltd, based at Mantova in Italy.
It is estimated that concrete products account for at least five per cent of the world’s carbon footprint from CO2 emissions. There are also increasing problems with concrete structures such as bridges, coastal defences and off-shore renewables which are suffering from premature ageing and rapid deterioration.
Most of this is a consequence of the corrosion of steel reinforcing bars (rebars) embedded in the concrete. The result is reduced efficiency as well as increased risk and cost. In the UK alone £600m a year is spent on repairs and and maintenance.
Eirocrete was inspired by the need to develop novel sustainable, low carbon, pre-cast concrete infrastructure which will have grealty improved whole life performance. The international project was the brainchild of two Queen’s University academics, Dr. Mohammed Sonebi and Professor Su Taylor both of whom have a strong track record of innovation in this field and successful experience of working with industry. They submitted their bid after taking part in an InvestNI-InterTradeIreland workshop designed to encourage researchers to seek appropriate opportunities for FP7 funding.
The aims were to develop significantly lower energy, durable concrete products; to maximise the inclusion of waste products in the manufacture of concrete; and to use a corrosion-resistant reinforcement that is stronger, lighter and with a lower carbon footprint than steel.
The industrial partners were chosen because of their expertise and ambition. Banagher is the leading manufacturer and supplier of precast concrete products to the Civil Engineering and Construction Industry throughout the UK and Ireland, while in Italy Azichem leads the way in specialist materials and ‘green’ technology.

A key innovation has been the use of pre-stressed basalt fibre reinforced polymer (BFRP) bars. Not only do they weigh very little, but their enhanced resistance to aggressive agents makes them far more resistant to corrosion than steel.
There has also been success in an experimental programme on the selection of waste materials for the production of self-compacting fibre-reinforced concrete (SCFRC) – or ‘Smart Concrete’ – while an additional innovation is an algorithm developed and implemented as a spreadsheet tool for the optimisation of SCFRC mixes.
The results have been published globally in top quality scientific journals and there have been presentations at international events for industry, academia and policy-makers in Spain, Ireland, Germany, Denmark, China, USA and at the Institution of Structural Engineers Annual Conference in Singapore, and during the Civil Structural Health Monitoring Workshop (CSHM-6) – Structural health monitoring of new and ageing infrastructure hosted at QUB.
In addition, there is an increased profile for Eirocrete through Dr. Sonebi’s prominent involvement with RILEM, the organisation advancing scientific knowledge related to the construction industry, where he is Chair of a committee on measuring rheological properties – the flow - of cement-based materials. He is also an influential member of the American Concrete Institute and fib.
Eirocrete means major long-term benefits for the participant companies and keeps them at the forefront of innovation. In their strategic plans, they have identified low energy and self-compacting concretes as an opportunity for growth. They now have the potential to save energy because of reduced handling requirements and they have the opportunity to expand the range of their products while making cost savings.

For the wider community, the development of low-cost, more sustainable infrastructure. Inadequate infrastructure costs the UK £2m a day so this project can reduce the millions currently spent on repair in the whole of Europe. There will also be increased environmental benefits, with waste materials being put to constructive use in an effective and efficient way, and for those at the cutting edge of construction, there are health benefits - less noise, less concrete dust, less likelihood of work-related illness.

With a regular interchange of personnel throughout the duration of the project, Eirocrete created an environment for learning and opened new doors of opportunity for those taking part. One example is that of a member of Banagher staff who was awarded an MSc in Civil Engineering at Queen’s University Belfast.

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United Kingdom


Life Sciences
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