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Concrete loses out on tall jobs

Tall buildings across the country are being built using steel because contractors cannot get enough specialist concrete mixes.

A large number of towers are being planned across the country’s major cities, including London, Leeds, Liverpool and Birmingham. But concrete groups are being told contractors are struggling to get hold of high-strength concrete in the volumes required for such projects.

It is feared that clients are now switching to steel frames in order for projects to be built on time.
The situation has so worried concrete bosses that the trade body for specialist concrete frame contractors, Construct, will meet the British Ready-mixed Concrete Association for talks on the issue later this month.

A Construct spokesman said: “These specialist concretes require different mixes. The ready-mix industry will say it can do that but when push comes to shove they are not keen to produce these mixes because it means changing their mix designs.

“They don’t want to invest in new plant and some do not have the technical ability to change to these new mixes. They are keen to get as much product as possible through their plant in a given period of time, so when you ask them to -produce a specialist mix they are reticent.”

News of the drought is a blow for the concrete sector in its ongoing battle with steel which has seen it make a big push in recent years to gain market share.

Chiefs at the Concrete Centre lobbying body have been busily promoting its versatility and arguing that high-strength concrete allows designers to build tall buildings with -thinner columns.

The Construct spokesman said there is also an ongoing issue with a shortage of cement nationwide. This is leading to more and more cement alternatives such as pulverized fuel ash and granulated blast furnace slag being used.

He added: “This does not affect performance but strength develops more slowly, which means you need to leave formwork in place for longer. That in turn can slow down construction or mean more formwork is needed for each project."

A spokesman for the British Ready-mixed Concrete Association said the situation had not esculated into a crisis but admitted: We understand there is a question on availability and performance of some types of concretes."

He confirmed the group was to meet its concrete counterparts and added: "High strength concrete is available from the industry throughout the UK and we are happy to meet with any concerned parties within the supply chain at any timeto inform them of the availability of this product."