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Chief Executive's Upfront
Innovate A Competitive Future

Monday, 20 November 2017  
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We find ourselves in strange times. Construction is at almost unprecedented levels and the ‘job sheet’ remains full for the majority.

Rob Gaimster, Chief Executive

Yet, we hear of businesses struggling, and in some instances going-under. We are also in the uncertain position of waiting for policy implementation from the new Government.  Regardless of the outcome, one thing is certain – the need to innovate remains a priority.

Definitions abound, but in general terms ‘innovation’ can be seen as “the application of better solutions to meet new requirements or implicit needs”.

Over recent years ‘innovation’ has evolved into ‘disruptive innovation’, and is broadly interpreted as an “innovation that creates a new or disrupts an existing market and value network”.

Despite being seen as an incremental innovator, the construction industry can point to its recent acceptance of the Industry Transformation Agenda, a BRANZ led project for collaborating, organising and prioritising projects to affect meaningful change; as an indication of a commitment to innovation.

Similarly, the concrete industry sometimes suffers from being seen as reluctant to innovate, primarily because many consider concrete ‘old technology’. However, this is definitely not the case.

Case-in-point are two concrete-based innovations that have the potential to disrupt the construction and concrete industries in New Zealand and in so doing dramatically enhanced productivity. These are 3D concrete printing and ductile cementitious composite.

As covered by Jia and Lendrum from Callaghan Innovation at the 2017 Concrete Industry Conference, 3D printing of concrete, also known as Cementitious Additive Manufacturing (CAM), is advancing quickly with a range of sample structures now in existence. The two most important concrete based printing technologies are fused deposition modelling (FDM) and three-dimensional printing (3DP).

While there are limitations in terms of building code coverage and the need for materials development, the immediate future will see 3D concrete printing adopted for temporary structures and architectural features.

As seismic structural design moves beyond ‘life safety’ towards ‘building survivability’, innovations in damage resistant design using concrete systems have emerged, including fibre-reinforced concrete. Termed Eco-Friendly Ductile Cementitious Composite (EDCC), the material is engineered at the molecular scale to be strong and ductile; enhancing the earthquake resistance of a seismically vulnerable structure when applied as a thin coating on the surfaces.

Change is inevitable. Concrete, including its constituent materials and systems, has and continues to compete strongly with alternative building materials to design solutions that address current and anticipated requirements.

No one can predict the future, but I’m confident that the concrete industry’s growing appetite for innovation today will yield results that advance New Zealand’s built environment tomorrow.