An investigation into the feasibility of hybrid concrete construction in South Africa

Jurgens, Christiaan Johannes (2008-03)

Thesis (MScEng (Civil Engineering))--Stellenbosch University, 2008.


Introduction South Africa is currently experiencing a significant increase in infrastructure investment. Forecasts by BMI-BRSCU have shown that the building and construction industry is expected to grow considerably to 2010, before languishing slightly to 2015. This growth will be driven in particular by investment in non-residential building (41% growth) and construction (73% growth) activities. Even beyond 2015 however, the demand will still be high on the construction industry to provide infrastructure for South Africa’s growing population. South Africa is also facing a serious shortage of engineers, technicians and other skilled workers in the construction industry. This places high demands on designers and contractors to provide services and to realise projects in ever-reducing time periods and at less cost. These conditions have made it increasingly difficult to maintain the required quality of construction in an industry where mistakes can lead to disastrous consequences. Recent advances in structural materials, structural systems and the way in which projects are handled, now enables a new look at the possibilities of combining pre-fabrication with on site work. This method, known as Hybrid Concrete Construction (HCC), has the potential to revolutionize the South African construction industry if applied correctly. Local research into this technique is however required and it is the aim of this thesis to draw attention to this subject. Key Findings Hybrid Concrete Construction (HCC) can be applied to any structural project, it will however not necessarily be successful. A structure needs to be adapted from the very start to suit a particular construction method. This ensures that all the advantages of the selected construction method may be achieved. Adapting a structure to a different construction method requires a mutual understanding and commitment from all project participants, including the architect, engineer, contractor and client. HCC also requires a certain degree of repetition in a project to be financially viable. A theoretical cost exercise was performed where only the material and erection costs were considered. In this exercise, HCC was found to be slightly less expensive than other construction methods for the Office Building of more than 10 storeys. HCC was also found to be significantly faster than other construction methods for the Office Building of more than 3 storeys. The time calculation was however based on the simplified time estimates from one source. Because of HCC’s shorter estimated construction period, the client can expect to earn revenue from a much earlier date. This decreases the relative cost of a HCC project. This advantage, however, needs to be quantified for chosen South African projects. On-site safety is still an important issue with HCC projects. Labourers are not accustomed to this construction method and it may be necessary to alter current skill development programs to include a crane safety course. The training of qualified riggers and crane operators should receive priority if HCC is to develop in South Africa. This preliminary investigation has shown that Hybrid Concrete Construction (HCC) can be feasible for the South African market. Further investigation is however required to determine the parameters for which HCC would be the preferred construction method. Recommendations Based on the findings and conclusions of this investigation, the following recommendations are made. The following actions should be undertaken by individual South African companies: · Develop relationships with external project partners · Train competent riggers and crane operators The South African concrete industry should invest in the following actions: · Invest in mass-producing precast concrete facilities · Develop a central database of South African projects with information on time, costs, project concepts and layouts to be used as a guideline for decision making · Develop local guidelines for the production and application of self compacting concrete · Compile guidelines for the design and construction of HCC and precast concrete construction in South Africa · Develop a local hidden corbel type connection to its full potential

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