January 22, 2022

Repairing Our Concrete Planet

Concrete repair alternatives such as HJ3's CarbonSeal concrete repair systems are favorable to replacement from both an environmental and cost standpoint.

copper mine concentrator column repair

Structural Strengthening of Concrete: A Sustainable Alternative

Structural strengthening of concrete is an issue that extends far beyond our country; it's a global concern. Often, we hear about the deterioration of major infrastructure components such as bridges, ports, and water pipelines, but it's the concrete itself, the iron and steel-reinforced concrete, that is the real problem. Concrete is no longer as durable as it once was. In his book "Concrete Planet," Robert Courland points out that while the Romans constructed concrete structures that lasted over 2,000 years, our modern concrete might endure for a mere century, at best. Moreover, cement production ranks as the third-largest source of CO2 emissions, trailing only behind automobiles and coal-fired power plants. The environmental impact of generating more concrete to replace our existing infrastructure cannot be ignored. Thankfully, there are alternative methods, such as carbon fiber reinforcement, for repairing or strengthening concrete infrastructure. These alternatives not only save money but also help mitigate the negative environmental consequences.

Concrete reinforcement or replacement becomes necessary when a structure's strength capacity is compromised or needs upgrading. This might occur due to a change in the load capacity of the structure or corrosion of the reinforcement within the concrete. Vibrations from manufacturing processes or traffic, as well as thermal expansion during hot/cold cycles, can lead to minor cracks in concrete, which can be repaired. However, when air, moisture, and chemicals seep into reinforced concrete, it causes the reinforcing steel bars to rust and expand in diameter, ultimately destroying the surrounding concrete. This leads to the spalling or falling off of the concrete, ultimately resulting in the deterioration of structures like buildings, roads, bridges, dams, levees, homes, airport runways, sewage and water pipes, schools, canals, power plants, grain elevators, shipping piers, and tunnels, among others.

Concrete repair is an environmentally friendly alternative to replacement because it helps conserve energy. The production of cement, when combined with water and rock to form concrete, is an energy-intensive process. As per the World Coal Association, cement production consumes significant amounts of energy, and coal is often burned during this process. This has environmental consequences since it requires substantial amounts of coal in the form of powder, with roughly 450g of coal used to produce about 900g of cement. Producing cement emits CO2, with one ton of cement often resulting in the emission of around one ton of CO2, and sometimes even more.

Structural strengthening of concrete can be achieved through alternative methods like carbon fiber reinforcement. These materials are lightweight, easy to install, and don't add weight to the existing structure. Moreover, it's a more sustainable approach to infrastructure repair, as carbon fiber makes use of a by-product of oil refining that was previously discarded. The environmental impact of carbon fiber, when considering end-to-end transportation costs, energy usage, and natural resource utilization, is considerably lower compared to traditional steel and concrete repairs or replacements. HJ3's carbon fiber repair systems offer a 60-90% cost savings over replacement, enabling clients to extend the life of their infrastructure for many years. In addition, they reduce downtime costs, making them the preferred choice for end users. HJ3's carbon fiber systems are commonly used to strengthen columns, beams, walls, slabs, silos, pedestals, pilings, underground pipes, manholes, and concrete tanks.

Reinforcing our deteriorating concrete structures can be accomplished in two ways. The first approach involves replacing concrete infrastructure with more concrete, which is both energy-intensive and results in significant CO2 emissions. The alternative, more sustainable method entails using advanced composite systems for infrastructure repair, such as carbon fiber. Carbon fiber is not only quicker and easier to install, but it also proves more cost-effective when you factor in materials, transportation, permitting, downtime, and labor costs. If you have a concrete structure in need of reinforcement and want to explore HJ3's concrete repair systems, please contact our project managers at hj3pm@hj3.com.



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