Over the course of the past few years, there has been a lot of buzz surrounding the idea of 3D-printing homes and other structures. 3D-printed homes have the potential to be affordable, durable and sustainable—a combination that is appealing both to home builders and prospective homeowners. But until recently, most companies pursing 3D-printed construction have only been able to show off rough demos of the process. This has left some skeptics to wonder if 3D-printed homes are ever actually going to get off the ground.
That could be about to change, however, thanks to an Austin, Texas-based company called Sunconomy.
Sunconomy recently partnered with a San Francisco-based housing development company called Forge New to begin leasing and licensing a 3D-printed home system called We Print Houses to home builders and residential contractors across the U.S. This system features both a mobile platform and mechanical systems that will provide builders and contractors an opportunity to create 3D-printed concrete homes.
Sunconomy says there will be a number of notable benefits associated with using their technology to 3D-print homes.
To begin with, the company claims it will only take a few weeks to build concrete homes using their system. The homes are also reportedly quite energy efficient and able to withstand everything from hurricane-force winds and hail to flooding and even earthquakes. In addition to giving builders and contractors a chance to employ the We Print Houses system in real-world scenarios, Sunconomy is also offering training courses and a certification program to help their customers make the most of the technology.
It remains to be seen whether or not the We Print Houses system is the game-changer Sunconomy hopes it will be, but it’s already being used to build at least one 3D-printed concrete home in Texas. Sunconomy calls the home “Genesis,” and it will feature three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a garage and its own renewable energy generation system at a cost of just under $300,000.
3D-printed concrete structures may not be in the mainstream just yet, but with companies like Sunconomy leading the way, they could be one step closer to widespread adoption.
Does it seem like road crews are resurfacing the highways in your area with fresh asphalt practically every year? This is due to the fact that asphalt roads, for all their virtues, have fairly limited lifespans, particularly in regions that experience harsh winter weather.
Thanks to recent innovations in the paving industry, however, some contractors are now using thin layers of concrete to extend the lifespan of roadways by as much as two decades.
In recent years, unbonded concrete overlays—which are typically less than six inches thick and separated from existing roadways by an even thinner layer of nonwoven polypropylene fabric—have been used to rehabilitate damaged roads in a number of states including Iowa, Minnesota, North Carolina and California. According to the American Concrete Pavement Association (ACPA), concrete overlays currently account for about 12.5 percent of the total volume of concrete pavement that’s poured in the U.S. each year.
By using existing roadways as a base layer for support, unbonded concrete overlays offer a cost-effective, long-term alternative to full-depth paving work and asphalt resurfacing.
“you add more structure with a concrete overlay than an asphalt overlay just by nature of the materials being stronger,” said ACPA President and CEO Gerald Voigt in a recent interview with Equipment World. “They last longer; they’re stronger inch by inch … From a user impact standpoint, you’re getting 20-plus years out of a concrete overlay versus an asphalt overlay getting eight, nine, maybe 10 years.”
Keep an eye out—before too long you may see these concrete overlays being used to rehabilitate a damaged roadway near you.
A durable concrete driveway can last for many years, but if you don’t take good care of it during the winter, cold weather and freezing precipitation can take a serious toll on its surface. Below you can find a few winter maintenance tips that will keep your concrete driveway in great condition.
Apply concrete sealer before winter begins.
One easy way to protect your concrete driveway in the winter is to apply a protective sealer before the season begins. A sealer can stop moisture from penetrating the concrete’s surface during the winter, thereby preventing it from spalling and cracking.
Put down sand instead of salt when it snows.
Many people pour salt and other deicing chemicals on their driveway when it snows. While these products can effectively melt snow and ice, they can also wreak havoc on your driveway. Use sand instead of deicing products to gain traction on your driveway without shortening its lifespan.
Remove snow and ice as quickly as you can.
If you let snow and ice pile up on your driveway during the winter, it will be more likely to cause moisture damage to your driveway. Get into the habit of removing snow and ice from your driveway as soon as it starts to build up. This will not only make shoveling easier, but also prevent moisture-related cracks from developing during the winter.
If your driveway has already survived a few too many winters, the team at Bergen Mobile Concrete can help you replace it with our convenient concrete buggies and mobile mixers. To learn more, feel free to give us a call or contact us online today!
Concrete might form the bedrock of modern urban construction, but its impact on the environment is raising concerns among climate researchers. Recent estimates suggest that Portland cement, the essential binding ingredient in concrete, accounts for roughly seven percent of global carbon emissions.
That could change soon, however, thanks to a multinational effort to drastically reduce the carbon output of the cement manufacturing process.
In Switzerland, for example, a group of scientists recently published a study that found it would be possible to reduce carbon emissions from the concrete sector by 80 percent without using carbon capture technology. These scientists argue that by optimizing concrete mixes, increasing the use of alternative fuels and recycling raw materials to produce the active ingredient clinker in cement, the concrete industry could effectively slash its carbon emissions by 2050.
Meanwhile, in Lithuania, another group of scientists is replacing Portland cement with alkali-activated industrial waste products such as fly ash to make concrete production more environmentally friendly as well. Although their carbon-cutting concrete is still in development, it is reportedly just as strong as conventional concrete and better able to resist damage from temperature fluctuations and exposure to acids.
Here in the United States, researchers at UCLA are also exploring innovative new ways to capture and repurpose carbon emissions from the cement manufacturing process. By creating a closed system wherein carbon dioxide is captured and recombined with calcium hydroxide to create limestone, they hope to make cement production a completely carbon-neutral process.
Thanks to the efforts of researchers all of the world, the concrete of the future may not only be stronger and more durable, but better for the environment as well.
India’s urban populations are growing at an unprecedented rate, and construction crews are having trouble keeping up with the demand for structural concrete due to a nationwide sand shortage. Meanwhile, the country’s lack of recycling infrastructure is allowing thousands of tons of waste plastic to pile up in city streets as well. But thanks to a joint effort between researchers at the University of Bath in the UK and Goa Engineering College in India, a new type of sustainable concrete could soon help to alleviate both these issues.
These researchers found that by replacing 10 percent of the sand in a conventional concrete mixture with waste plastic particles from ground up bottles, they could create a viable, eco-friendly construction material. If their plastic-infused concrete is widely adopted by India’s construction industry, the researchers estimate it could save 820 million metric tons of sand each year.
“The key challenge her was to have a limit between a small reduction in strengths, which we achieved, and using an appropriate amount of plastic to make it worthwhile,” said Principle Investigator Dr. John Orr in a statement. “It is really a viable material for use in some areas of construction that might help us to tackle issues of not being able to recycle the plastic and meeting a demand for sand.”
Although this concrete was specifically designed to help meet the unique needs of India’s construction industry, it could be useful in other regions with limited recycling capabilities as well.
The nation’s concrete roadways receive a whole lot of wear and tear, particularly in regions that experience extreme changes in temperature during the summer and winter. These temperature fluctuations can cause paved concrete surfaces to expand and contract, resulting in cracks that require seasonal repairs and replacement.
Thanks to the efforts of a mechanical engineering professor at Louisiana State University, however, transportation officials could soon be able to treat concrete roadways with a polymer-based sealant that mitigates the effects of seasonal expansion and contraction to prevent cracking. This, in turn, could save states a great deal of money in repairs each year.
Engineering professor Guogiang Li first began experimenting with polymer-based sealants in 2009, after receiving funding from the National Cooperative Highway Research Program and the Louisiana Research Transportation Center. His first prototype was a one-way memory shape polymer that could stretch and compress in response to seasonal temperature fluctuations. Then, in 2012, he created an improved two-way shape memory polymer sealant and combined it with asphalt to improve its ability to bond with concrete and resist environmental wear.
Following a successful round of laboratory testing, transportation departments in Louisiana, Texas and Minnesota will begin testing the concrete sealant’s performance on real roadways this year. This testing and certification process is expected to be complete by the end of 2019. If it performs as advertised, the polymer-based sealant could become a common feature of concrete roadways throughout the country.
Although cold temperatures are typically a greater obstacle when working with concrete, hot summer days can present some unique challenges as well. To understand how extreme heat affects freshly-poured concrete, it’s important to first have a clear understanding of how the concrete-setting process works.
Concrete sets via an exothermic reaction called hydration.
When concrete hydrates, it absorbs moisture and forms solid crystals around the aggregate particles in the mix. The process of hydration is slowed by cold temperatures and accelerated by heat. On especially hot days when crystallization happens more quickly, the crystals have less time to strengthen before the hydration process is complete. Evaporation can also compromise the strength of the concrete’s surface layer. This, in turn, can make the concrete more susceptible to cracking.
The good news is, there are a few strategies you can employ to help concrete retain moisture on hot days and ensure that the finished product is as strong as possible.
When pouring concrete in temperatures above 85°F, it’s a good idea to use a concrete mix with a higher volume of coarse aggregate particles. This can prevent the concrete from shrinking as it hydrates.
If possible, pour concrete early in the morning before the temperature peaks.
Spray cool water on the side forms and subgrade prior to pouring concrete slabs.
Use tarps or other sunshades to keep paved surfaces cool and prevent evaporation while the concrete sets.
Make sure you have enough help to mix, pour and finish the concrete without interruptions in between each step.
At Bergen Mobile Concrete, our metered mobile mixers are designed to provide a consistent, quality product that can be mixed to your exact specifications. Best of all, you’ll never have to pay for more than what you use! Just give us a call to schedule your concrete delivery today.
Additive manufacturing processes—also known as 3D printing—are being used to make everything from medical devices to engine components, and now the U.S. Army is even using employing a similar technique to build concrete structures.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has devised a system that allows them to create lightweight concrete structures quickly with a massive 3D printer. Once the technique is perfected, Army officials expect that they will be able to build temporary structures in a fraction of the time it currently takes to build using conventional methods.
It’s probably no surprise that 3D printing concrete structures is no easy feat.
Normal concrete–which contains a mix of aggregates like crushed stone, sand, gravel, and more–tends to clog printing machinery and cause equipment failures. To overcome this issue, the Army created its own concrete mix with sand, fly ash, silica fume, clay, a liquid admixture and water. This concrete mix is then paired with mesh layers to build strong, durable structures.
Army officials are optimistic that they will find a variety of practical applications for its new concrete and 3D printing process. These include building concrete barriers, barracks, training facilities and more in areas with limited resources. In the future, businesses in the civilian sector may even adopt similar additive manufacturing techniques to build concrete structures in record time as well.
Need a hand with your next concrete paving or construction project? Our concrete buggies and metered mobile mixers are designed to make concrete work easy and efficient. Give us a call or contact us online today to learn more.
Has a vehicle with a leaky oil pan left a dark oil stain on your concrete driveway? It’s a good idea to remove these stains sooner rather than later so that they don’t have an opportunity to soak into the concrete. Oil and grease stains will also need to be cleaned before the driveway is resealed.
Start With Cat Litter
If the stain is relatively small, you can start by applying a generous amount of cat litter to the affected area. Cat litter is an absorbent poultice that effectively sucks oil and grease out of concrete. Let the cat litter sit on the oil stain for about 30 minutes, and then use a heavy tool like a tamper to scrub the litter into the stain. Once you’re done, you can sweep up the remaining cat litter and discard it.
Use a Degreaser
If there’s still evidence of a stain after using the cat litter method, you can use a concrete degreaser to loosen the oil and make it easier to remove. Just dilute the degreaser according to the directions on the bottle, and use a scrub brush and some elbow grease to scour the stain away.
Try a Microbial Cleaner
For particularly stubborn stains, consider using a microbial cleaner instead. These products contain enzymes that digest the oil and convert it into harmless byproducts. The enzymes will continue to consume the oil until it’s gone, at which point they will die off leaving your driveway clean and spot-free. This is the same method that’s used to clean beaches and waterways following oil spills.
Recent advances in nanoengineering have allowed scientists at the University of Exeter to develop an innovative new technique that incorporates graphene into conventional concrete production. The graphene-infused concrete is reportedly twice as strong and four times more water resistant than traditional concrete mixes. It also reduces the amount of materials needed to make concrete by about 50 percent, which could significantly reduce the carbon footprint of large-scale construction projects.
So what makes this experimental concrete so strong and durable?
Graphene is an emerging “supermaterial” with a wide array of industrial applications, many of which are only just beginning to be realized. It consists of a single layer of carbon atoms bonded together in a pattern of hexagons resembling a honeycomb. This unique atomic structure makes graphene the strongest material in the world. It’s also so thin that it’s technically classified as a two-dimensional material.
The researchers at the University of Exeter were able to incorporate this remarkable material into concrete mix by suspending it in water. The end result was a graphene-infused concrete that is low cost and compatible with current manufacturing requirements.
“This ground-breaking research is important as it can be applied to large-scale manufacturing and construction. The industry has to be modernized by incorporating not only off-site manufacturing, but innovative new materials as well,” said lead study author Dimitar Dimov in his comments.
Thanks to the efforts of Dimov and his team, graphene could make the concrete of the future even stronger, more sustainable and more water resistant than modern concrete mixes.