Use of composite materials in construction
The construction sector has made steps to adopt fibre-reinforced polymer composites (FRPs) since the 1960s and have been successfully used in applications such as load bearing and infill panels, pressure pipes, tank liners, and roofs. In recent years complete FRP systems have been developed to form entire composite structures including foot, road and rail bridge systems. FRPs also have an aesthetic purpose and can be used for linings, fittings and cladding.
There are several key reasons why composites are employed in construction:
- Time saving - low weight for fast construction in time tight projects
- Durability - able to survive, especially in harsh environments
- Repair - to allow repair of structures in-situ
- Strengthening - strengthening of structures in-situ
- Tailor-made properties - where especially high performance is needed in one direction
- Appearance - where a particular colour, shape or texture is required
- Blast/fire - where blast or fire resistance is required
- Radio transparent
- Low maintenance - in conditions where difficult access makes maintenance hard
The Composites Leadership Forum Vision and Roadmap for the use of FRP Composites in Construction identified key opportunities for the increased uptake of the materials across the sector.
The main areas of application of FRP composites in construction are:
- bridge decks
- full bridge structures
- bridge enclosures
- Civils and Infrastructure
- masts and towers
- modular structures
- access covers
- water control structures
- sanitary ware
- architectural mouldings
- strengthening existing structures
- seismic retrofitting
Opportunities for FRP in Construction
The UK construction industry accounts for around 7% of GDP and generates over £90 billion of gross value added to the economy. The UK has globally respected architects, consulting engineers, material suppliers and contractors as well as a reputation for innovation and excellence. Whist UK exports are £6bn, imports are £12 billion and there are efforts to reduce this trade gap which could present opportunities for composite products.
The Construction industry’s strategy (Construction 2025 published by BIS) sets the goal of reducing the time from inception to completion of a project by 50% and reducing costs by a third. This will require a much greater degree of off-site manufacturing in factory environments and the use of new, lower cost materials.
As well as well publicised plans to build more homes, the UK has embarked on one of the largest infrastructure programmes in history. Over £200bn is earmarked for energy projects, £115bn for transport projects and £23bn for water projects; of this, around two-thirds will be spent before
2020. These levels of investment provide real opportunities for composites in applications such as bridges, tunnel linings, gantries and a myriad of other large and small structures.
To view our case studies click here or on the application links above.