It’s obviously no secret that the past few years have been a challenge for construction.
However, I believe the green shoots of recovery are starting to bloom for the concrete industry.
At the start of the year we focused our efforts on key areas of the business we thought would be ripe for growth, and one of those was specialist concrete.
As architects and specifiers looked for greater flexibility in the material they use and to increase the speed at which they could complete construction projects, it became clear that concrete might be the answer.
Making the most of the upturn
Being able to utilise the speed of pouring ready-mixed concrete and benefiting from innovations in the appearance and properties of the ingredients, we’ve seen a huge growth in this area.
I think this will further increase over the next few years and at Aggregate Industries we are trying to make the most of this upturn.
“We brought techniques and processes directly out of the factory and onto the site, including specialist concrete finishers and acid etching”
We’ve been paying particular attention to our decorative concrete solution and this is an area where we have seen clear success.
Our coloured concrete range, called Articimo, has been in high demand this year having been used on numerous contracts across the UK.
We provided black concrete for the new Edinburgh tram project to ensure the material blended in with the asphalt, and we’ve started work on the Nottingham tram line extension providing them three bespoke mixes of Articimo, with exposed decorative aggregate finishes, to create an aesthetically pleasing finished product.
Concrete by the sea
However, it was our work on the sea defence at Littlehaven in Northumberland that really highlighted the flexibility of the product and an example of why customers seem to be requesting concrete in growing numbers.
The original sea defence at Littlehaven protruded seawards at its centre, leaving it susceptible to structural damage and wave overtopping.
The challenge for the project team was to provide an enhanced coastal defence, at a cost-effective price, which could offer long-term protection.
It was also required to give the beach, promenade and sea defences an attractive facelift to help stimulate tourism. Essentially, the requirement was both function and fashion.
Concrete was the obvious solution for this unique project. The function came from offering durable, cost-effective, long-term protection against coastal erosion, while the fashion came from using specialist concrete to create a two-tone effect.
Another interesting requirement was to achieve a precast quality finish using concrete cast in-situ.
As a result, we brought techniques and processes directly out of the factory and onto the site, including specialist concrete finishers and acid etching.
Performing these processes in-situ helped us to create a high-quality end product, while also offering a cost-effective solution.
Coloured concrete is just one example of ways we in the concrete industry are listening to and meeting the demands of our customers.
As long as that continues, I think the growth for demand in concrete can be maintained for years to come.
Simon Marriott is concrete director at Aggregate Industries