Construction World

Concrete is a key infrastructure material, yet far too few civil or structural engineers enrol at the School of Concrete Technology (SCT) at The Concrete Institute (TCI) to study concrete in depth, says John Roxburgh, lecturer at SCT.

“This apathy about expanding their knowledge of concrete is a major concern as increasingly strong arguments can be put forward for an engineer to specialise in concrete technology,” Roxburgh states.

TCI more engineers should specialise in concrete technologyJohn Roxburgh, lecturer at the School of Concrete Technology, believes more engineers should specialise in concrete technology.

He says among the many reasons engineers should also be concrete technologists is the fact that concrete is globally the most abundantly used construction material, with about one ton of concrete cast per person in the entire world per year. “So, inevitably civil or structural engineers will have to specify, design or build with concrete during the course of their work,” Roxburgh contends.

Over time – and also more recently – changes in the construction industry and global climate have resulted in engineers requiring a greater knowledge of concrete technology.

“Sustainability is an issue that is now an essential part of concrete construction. Atmospheric carbon dioxide has increased by over 50% in the last century with climate change evident in our everyday lives. To boost sustainability initiatives, the cement and concrete industry now makes substantial use of cement extenders and high-performance concretes including high strength, self-compacting, roller compacted, and low density concretes.

“Concrete structures are now also being designed with full life cycle goals to minimising energy use, maintenance costs and ensure full recyclability of the structure at the end of its useful life. In specifying and designing sustainable and durable concrete structures, an engineer now more than ever needs a sound knowledge of concrete technology.”

Roxburgh says on the socio-economic front, there has been an increasing reliance on the lowest tender system for selection of contractors and a decline in the skills and knowledge base in the construction industry. “Cost effective, sustainable concrete solutions that make use of modern concrete technology to mitigate skills shortage and lack of expertise on site will be of great advantage. For engineers to merely specify concrete strength for projects will do very little to meet the needs of modern concrete construction.”

He believes there is also a great need for engineers in the more specialised fields of concrete technology and construction. These include such areas as concrete pavements and industrial floors design, concrete repair and rehabilitation, concrete forensics, dam building, underwater concreting and precast concrete design.

“All these fields require concrete technology education far exceeding anything taught during a university degree course. Concrete technology education will most certainly broaden the career opportunities of any civil engineer – and it is time the engineering profession realises this,” Roxburgh adds.

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