Crack on a concrete surface: a team of researchers at Swansea University have been awarded £322,000 to develop digital solutions to reduce concrete construction defects.

A team of researchers at Swansea University have been awarded £322,000 to develop digital solutions to reduce concrete construction defects.

Experts within the Faculty of Science and Engineering are working with three leading organisations within the construction industry to tackle the major delays and costs incurred by flaws in large-scale concrete construction.

The project aims to develop new software tools and contribute to industrial guides for improved concrete mixes, structural designs, and construction processes that will lead to enhanced efficiency, better quality, more sustainable development, and reduced cost.

Project lead Professor Chenfeng Li comments:

“Various structural defects associated with fresh concrete flow continue to occur, causing significant cost to the industry. The urgent need to address the costly defects arising from large-scale concrete works is jointly recognised by the civil engineering and construction industry. The problem and associated technical challenges concern the whole supply chain, from structural designers and constructors to concrete producers.”

“Our collaborative approach aims to converge academic expertise in computer modelling and industry expertise to produce a solution through numerical modelling and software technology. For example, the development of a prototype software tool for fresh concrete flow simulation looking at techniques such as the tremie method – an underwater concreting method using a vertical pipe taken below water level.”

“The resulting impact will ultimately mitigate the risk of construction defects related to fresh concrete, and the subsequent remedial works that incur major cost and significant delays in project delivery. This pivotal contribution to Wales’ research and innovation will help tackle global challenges and pave the way for future regional investment and collaboration that will support economic productivity and regeneration in the aftermath of the COVID pandemic.”

The project is a collaboration with world-leading engineering consultancy company ARUP, leading engineering analysis software developer LUSAS and the European Federation of Foundation Contractors (EFFC).

Chris Harnan at EFFC comments:

“The numerical modelling work previously carried out with Swansea University while preparing our tremie guide greatly improved our understanding of the concrete flow patterns when using the tremie method. This project will further improve our understanding and provide insight into new advanced techniques.”

Chris Barker, Associate Director at Arup, comments:

“The UK’s industry’s piling specifications have developed tremie concrete requirements based on historical experience. There is now a need to review these specifications using numerical methods, such as those provided by Swansea University in the SMART Expertise project.”

Paul Lyons, Managing Director at LUSAS, comments:

“LUSAS has developed sophisticated simulation tools for concrete structures including creep, shrinkage, early age behaviour and cracking, whist in this project we aim to extend our modelling services to fresh concrete behaviour, an area where issues related to defects have caused great concern and losses in the construction industry.”

The SMART Expertise project is funded by the European Regional Development Fund (through the Welsh European Funding Office).

Smart Manufacturing - Swansea University research

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