Canadian municipalities face the ongoing challenge of building communities that meet the needs of their citizens today and the needs of future generations. The cement and concrete industries can help municipalities achieve their sustainable development goals.
Product advancement and innovation in concrete technology is the hallmark of Canada’s cement and concrete industry. Take a closer look at what today’s concrete solutions can provide:
Concrete is like putty
in the hands of an
architect or engineer.
It’s easy to manipulate.
It can take any shape,
turn any colour,
mimic any texture,
span great distances and
weather any storm.
Due to its versatility, aesthetic appeal, cost-effectiveness and availability, concrete is changing the face of Canada’s landscape. Increasingly, cutting-edge architects and engineers are making concrete their material of choice.
As requests for changes are not uncommon in any construction project, the design flexibility of concrete allows the contractor to accommodate design changes after the process has begun.
Limited only by your imagination, the breadth of colours and textured finishes available in concrete today will amaze you. Mixing and matching colours and textures provides a spectrum of design possibilities.
Concrete texture can resemble smooth, high-polished granite or gutsy, exposed aggregates with a rugged feel. Other possibilities include tumbled cobblestone, brick, cultured limestone, slate, flagstone or river rock. Look around and you will begin to notice the selection of contemporary designs and creative finishes.
Stamping and Scoring
As natural stone becomes inaccessible or the costs prohibitive, concrete is a natural alternative for recreating traditional finishes in a cost-effective way. Besides being widely available and less expensive than quarried stone, cement-based cultured stone is easier to match and install. This makes it popular even in places where quantities of quarried stone are available.
More concrete is used in construction worldwide than all other construction materials combined.
More Floors per Structure
Shallower floor systems are an important structural advantage of concrete. On average, the construction of concrete buildings will allow one additional floor to be created for each 10 stories of traditional building height, resulting in more rentable space for buildings of similar size. When faced with height restrictions, concrete construction is a key consideration and could represent initial construction cost savings and additional income generation.
Concrete is readily available from over 1,100 locations across Canada. A concrete structure can be well underway before final plans are complete. Earlier start-up means better cash flow for owners and developers. An earlier start could mean getting the jump on the summer construction season or getting a foundation in before the winter frost.
Faster Finish Times
Precast/prestressed concrete can help reduce construction time and on-site labour costs by taking advantage of prefabrication of standard and custom structure segments.
Advanced construction techniques such as ‘flying formwork systems’, increase the speed of floor construction. As a concrete frame progresses upward, workers on the completed floors below can proceed with interior partitions, exterior finishing, electrical, mechanical and plumbing systems.
Lower Energy Costs
The energy efficiency of a structure is a major consideration in the life cycle cost analysis. Concrete construction minimizes the overall building height. This shortens vertical runs of mechanical and electrical systems and reduces the exterior surface area to be enclosed and insulated.
Lower Finishing Costs
With concrete cladding panels, a great range of finishes and textures are available. Precast panels are extremely durable, weather resistant, offer superior air tightness, increased sound attenuation and thermal properties and are inherently fire resistant. Concrete claddings permit fast enclosure of the structure, allowing other trades to start sooner, cutting construction time, and reducing wall thickness to maximize rentable space.
Due to its valued load-bearing properties, concrete allows for longer floor spans with fewer columns to plan around. This offers flexibility in architectural layout and even more usable space. Increasingly, concrete is setting the standard for space planning and utility infrastructure.
With such a wide selection of interior and exterior finishes, concrete offers truly beautiful aesthetic options to fit any design or budget.
The Product Of Choice For Tight Construction Schedules
Concrete is often selected for projects with tight schedules and budget constraints. Speed and cost are critical factors in delivering projects on time and on budget.
Once the design has been selected, there is generally pressure to get a project started. More and more organizations are making speed a priority, particularly high technology companies and rapidly growing firms. When such businesses decide to construct a new facility, they are often overburdened and already behind schedule. With concrete designs, there is no delay in getting started – concrete is readily available.
Reduced Sound Transmission
Containing sound within the walls of a structure is critical in today’s highly competitive environment. Should the tenant requirements include sound transmission control, the natural mass of concrete floor and wall systems provides both acoustical resistance and vibration control.
Creative Wiring Options
Thin concrete floor structures facilitate the use of raised floor systems. Raised floors are ideal for Intelligent Building Construction where the wiring is run in the space below. Where flexibility and increased wiring are common demands in new construction, concrete fits the bill.
Generating Revenue Faster
Faster construction means reduced carrying costs and faster revenue generation. This facilitates more timely pay back of financing charges and faster revenue generation for the developer/owner.
Lasting Structures Requiring Lower Maintenance
Due to its longevity and ease of construction, concrete is often the most economical choice for engineered structures. Loadbearing concrete exterior walls serve not only to enclose the buildings, but to carry roof and wind loads – eliminating the need to erect separate cladding and structural systems.
Concrete is often left exposed on interior walls due to its aesthetic appeal, durability and inherent fire-resistance. Exposed concrete reduces the need for and cost of applying additional fireproofing to satisfy building codes.
Ideal for Strict Specifications
A major advantage of concrete construction for engineered structures is the material’s properties of density and mass. Lateral stiffness, or resistance to horizontal movement, make concrete the product of choice when constructing in areas where high winds, hurricanes, tornadoes or seismic conditions are considerations. This lateral stiffness also means that occupants of concrete towers are less able to perceive building motion.
The majority of concrete is produced locally, minimizing fuel requirements for handling and transportation. Once in place, concrete offers significant energy savings over the lifetime of the structure.
The mass of a concrete structure makes it a significant thermal reservoir with the ability to store large amounts of energy. In the heating months, concrete walls and floors absorb the interior heat during the day, then radiate warmth back into the space at night. The same principle holds true for cooling. This thermal inertia allows concrete to help maintain a relatively steady interior temperature.
By storing and releasing the energy needed for heating or cooling, concrete delivers year-round energy benefits. Together, insulation and concrete contribute to highly energy-efficient buildings reducing peak energy demands and the size of HVAC equipment required.
Four methods of concrete
construction are commonly
used to create
concrete masonry, and
Concrete is an inert material that is easily recyclable. Old concrete that has reached the end of its service life can be reused as aggregate for new concrete mixtures. The addition of industrial by-products such as fly ash, silica fume and blast furnace slag make concrete less permeable while incorporating materials that would otherwise be deposited in landfill sites.
Concrete is a durable material that gains strength over time. Such extended life span conserves resources by reducing maintenance and the need for reconstruction.
Richmond Hill, Ontario
The term “tilt-up” describes a method of constructing concrete walls rapidly and economically. Wall panels are cast horizontally on the floor slab. After they have attained sufficient strength, a mobile crane sets the panels on footings. The erected panels are temporarily braced while the floor and roof framing is constructed.
Tilt-up concrete is most commonly used for one-storey buildings, but its use in multi-storey low-rise office and warehouse buildings is growing.
This process offers quick response to tight schedules, flexibility for on-site adjustments, speed of construction, lower capital investment and lower maintenance. Architects have almost unlimited freedom to arrange and assemble panels, plus a wide choice of surface finishes.
Halifax, Nova Scotia
Structural and architectural precast concrete elements are manufactured under controlled plant conditions using a skilled workforce and stringent quality controls. Precast systems are quickly installed even under adverse weather conditions. Products include precast columns, beams, walls, stairs and long-span prestressed hollow core and double tee floor and roof slabs. Insulated precast concrete sandwich wall panels are popular for a wide variety of industrial and commercial applications. Structural precast concrete is used for bridges, parking structures and industrial applications where cleanliness and corrosion resistance is required.
Concrete masonry units are widely used for warehouse and industrial construction. Although the standard gray 8-by-8-by-16-inch (20-by-20-by-40 cm) block is still prevalent, designers may select from a variety of sizes, colours and textures to create a wide range of architectural appearances. Masons assemble load-bearing walls by laying them with mortar, either in single or multiple block thickness. The blocks, which are usually hollow, can be filled with insulation or reinforced with steel rods, depending on project requirements.
Cast-in-place concrete construction technology, although more common in multi-storey construction, is widely used to construct schools, offices, hospitals and other low-rise buildings. Load-bearing, cast-in-place walls are built by placing reinforcing steel, erecting wall forms, and placing ready-mixed concrete into the forms. The forms, which are removed after the concrete hardens, are constructed of plywood, steel, aluminum or plastic and may be designed to imprint a texture on the concrete surface.
Techniques continue to improve with new research and innovations, furthering the advantages of concrete construction.
Autoclaved Aerated Concrete
Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (AAC) systems use technologically advanced concrete and mortar. Such concrete is made with fine aggregates (nothing coarser than a grain of sand), cement and a natural expansion agent that causes it to rise like bread dough, creating countless small air pockets. In fact, this concrete is 80% air. Premade at the factory, AAC can be molded and cut it into precisely dimensioned units. While block-size is most common, it can also be cast into reinforced panels for walls, floors and roofs. AAC can be cut with a handsaw to allow product adjustment at the construction site.
Insulating Concrete Forms
Insulating Concrete Forms (ICFs) are hollow foam blocks or panels which are stacked in the shape of building walls. The forms are filled with reinforced concrete – sandwiching a heavy, high-strength material between two layers of light, high-insulation foam. The resulting walls offer many benefits including air tightness, strength, sound attenuation, insulation and fire resistance.