Reinforcement to combat earthquakes

Earthquakes, which have proved to be the most destructive of natural hazards, destroy fragile buildings and civil infrastructures.

As these seismic events are very numerous worldwide, it became a matter of vital necessity to protect not only the buildings, but above all the local inhabitants, by developing innovative solutions which make it possible to lessen the earthquake effects on the structures.

Saint-Gobain Technical Fabrics (SGTF) has a long-standing expertise in the manufacture of reinforcement fabrics, grids and meshes for the construction industry. Most products manufactured with E-type glass reinforcement, which are very robust and extremely shock-resistant, are used. However, a lost of strength can occur, reducing the performance with time if exposed to a very alkaline, corrosive environment, such as cement or concrete. This can be important where continued structural support is needed. Within the Reinforcement Branch, Saint-Gobain Technical Fabrics has worked closely with Cem-FIL® Reinforcements, the world leader in Alkali-Resistant (AR) glass to develop a mesh which performs better in these corrosive type of application.

A specific development method

The BayGate™ new product development process is used by SGTF to manage the project and achieve optimal results. Developed by Saint-Gobain Technical Fabrics, the BayGate™ process optimises product development requirements on the technical, industrial and commercial fronts by assembling a team comprising the required technical skills working together. The Cem-FIL® Reinforcements team from Alcalà de Henares (Spain), worked together with the Saint-Gobain Renforcement Research Centre team from Chambéry (France) and the SGTF team from St. Catharines (Canada) to design the new reinforcement grid. "As the AR glass behaves differently compared with E-glass in fabric forming operation, significant research was needed to find the appropriate size formulas", explained Stephan Liozu, VP Marketing, Cem-FIL® Reinforcements. "Baygate™ has made it possible for us to develop production tools that meet market requirements and to develop a product that is effective for the renovation of buildings, infrastructures or parts of foundations", added Thom Palmer, SGTF Market Development Manager for Construction Products.

FibaCrete SGR: a product with a type of performance that is new to the market…

"Three years of research work have enabled us to develop a mesh that is unique, different from all the other existing Alkali-Resistant products" said Thom Palmer. Made from AR Cem-FIL® glass, the FibaCrete SRG (Structural Reinforcement Grid) is effective in an alkaline environment, is long-lasting, flexible and fire resistant, and has a better adhesion with cements and mortars helping to reduce cracking. It is easy to install, which reduces installation costs and gives a competitive advantage. Patents have be applied for. This product extends the current range of reinforcement fabrics. According to Thom Palmer, "It doesn't replace our other reinforcement or renovation products, but rather makes our product offer more wide-ranging. It all depends on what sort of product properties you are looking for".

…tested and accepted as an earthquake-resistant product

FibaCrete SRG has been tested by the USACOE (US Army Corps of Engineers) at the CERL (Construction Engineering Research Laboratory). These American government-sponsored organisations have evaluated the performances of different systems with respect to earth tremors and quakes on masonery structures; the initial test results showed superior performance on the "SRG system", making it possible for architectural engineers to begin recommending it as a solution for a considerable number of rehabilitation requirements, which goes to show that it is currently the best solution for reinforcing fragile buildings.

"We are expecting FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Authority) approval this year" continued Thom Palmer. This national organisation is responsible for security and prevention with respect to natural disasters. Full scale demonstration sites are underwayu in California, both at Red Bluff in northern California and at Concorde in the San Francisco Bay area, where the installation methods have been validated. There are also projects scheduled for using the product in other buildings in Virginia, Connecticut and Massachusetts. "The market potential is enormous, because there are 1.6 million buildings world-wide which are considered to be at risk" Thom Palmer said. "Our solution also has some advantages in the way it performs which may offer building security against terrorist attacks, providing additional structural resistance to explosions".

A triple partnership for a comprehensive, made-to-measure product offer

Saint-Gobain Technical Fabrics has been collaborating with Dryvit Systems, which is the leader on the exterior insulation market, and with the Quikrete cement company in the development and commercialisation of this system. This synergy makes direct contact with the customer base possible (architects and builders), thanks to Dryvit Systems who supply the sales force.

Quikrete assisted with a specially formulated high quality mortar, which also contains Cem-FIL® reinforcing fibers. The system is sold exclusively by Dryvit Systems in the form of a complete package, including the product's technical specifications and the installation conditions. Thom Palmer told us: "As a plus point, Dryvit works with a network of building professionals who are trained in these techniques".

This overall product and services offer is becoming a development area with a substantial added value for Saint-Gobain Technical Fabrics.

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