Solid prospects

15 April 2008

Fair faced concrete is being used to add impact to the design of the new Mercedes brand centre in Mi

Fair faced concrete is being used to add impact to the design of the new Mercedes brand centre in Milan, Italy.

Concrete is no longer just a cost effective construction material, but is becoming a firm favourite with architects to achieve an aesthetic finish on modern buildings. The latest Mercedes brand centre in Milan, Italy is a prime example of concrete being used to create a building's focal point.

Main contractor Züblin is using formwork supplied by Peri to cast in-situ the 16000 m2 of complexly curving walls of the centre's conical tower in fair faced concrete. But it is not just the architectural use of concrete which the project has in common with many others currently underway across Europe, it is also the tight timescale.

The whole construction programme for the Milanese project is 21 months, with just 12 allotted for undertaking the concrete elements. Peri supplied the formwork in preformed sections to save time on site and the concrete pouring cycle had to be kept to a pre-determined schedule to keep work on track.

According to Cifa export sales director Walter Vimercati, growth in the European construction sector means tight construction schedules are becoming commonplace.

“Short construction schedules place high demands on concrete pumping and placing equipment on site and they need reliable equipment to ensure they can meet these tight timetables,” he said.

Bigger Booms

“There is also a growing trend with contractors in Europe for using concrete pumps with bigger booms,” said Mr Vimercati. “It used to be common to see 26 m machines in Europe but now the most common size is probably 46 m – contractors want one machine that can be used throughout a project.”

Cifa will be working to meet this demand with the launch of a new 50 m boom truck mounted concrete pump at the Bauma exhibition in Munich, Germany in April this year. The machine will be the largest in the Cifa range and will feature a new folding system, which Mr Vimercati claims is different from others in Europe.

One German contractor that favours long reach concrete placing booms is BEKA-Betonförderdienst. The company is currently using its new 61 m vertical reach Putzmeister M 62 to carry out concrete pumping and placing work for main contractor Hochtief on the refurbishment of the old exhibition halls in Cologne, Germany.

The Rheinhallen's 1920s brick façades are being retained, while the inside is being reconstructed to become a modern office and media centre for German broadcaster RTL. More than 140000 m3 of concrete will be used to construct the new building, within the walls of the old exhibition centre, including 1,5 m deep foundations.

BEKA used its six-fold M 62 to deliver up to 200 m3/hour of concrete for the formwork elements of the project. The contractor also had a five fold, 52 m vertical reach M 52-5 on site to help on larger parts of the work, which called for placement of up to 1800 m3 of concrete.

Compact Construction

Cifa will also be unveiling a 35 m boom short wheel base truck mounted concrete pump and a restyled, lighter 41 m boom pump at Bauma. “Transportation is a big issue in many European to the construction area was also limited, so the M20-4's compact size was an advantage and the pump's EPS hydraulic control also made it ideal for the lightweight concrete.

According to Putzmeister, the EPS module is different from conventional hydraulic systems because it regulates the functions of the concrete pumps electronically, making it possible to optimise the pumping process. This was particularly important for dealing with the lightweight concrete where the aggregates are porous and will absorb water and concrete fines under pressure.

The M20-4 has a rotor pump system that creates a low, uniform delivery pressure to help prevent blockages during pumping of the lightweight concrete.

Prospects

“Growth in the concrete pumping and placing sector in 2006 was good and we are expecting similar gains this year too,” said Cifa's Mr Vimercati. “Demand for new infrastructure in Eastern Europe and private sector investment in Western Europe were the main divers for the concrete industry last year.

“Prospects for further demand look good for the whole of Europe in 2007, so we expect that to translate into sales for concrete contractors, which will help increase demand for new concrete equipment. Demand for concrete pumping equipment is currently high in Italy, but we are expecting to see the highest growth in sales in 2007 in Russia and countries which were formerly part of the Soviet Union. We are also forecasting good sales in India and other parts of Asia.”

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