• 16 April 2019

Re-imagining structural concrete manufacture

The method revolutionising construction

Working alongside contractor Laing O’Rourke and the department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Imperial College London, our structures team have been heavily involved in developing a modular concrete system, set to shape the future of structural design and construction in the built-environment.

The new approach, based on ‘Design for Manufacturing and Assembly’ (DfMA) originating in the automotive industry, transforms traditional structural concrete fabrication. With the UK government taking a keen interest in innovations which support productivity and growth in the construction sector, DfMA comes at an exciting time for the wider industry.

The approach has been particularly successful at sites constrained by nearby buildings, narrow spaces and fully-operational transportation systems. The bespoke design of individual structural concrete elements for an entire building ensures each item can be cast and cured in factory conditions before being brought to site for installation.

Explaining the origins of DfMA, Richard Papworth (Board Director for Structures) said; “Traditional site-pouring with metal reinforcement has been used for decades, but it is time-consuming, weather-dependent and could be made more efficient in both time and cost. DfMA represents a way to improve structural concrete manufacture by addressing this.”

“It widens the scope of pre-casting techniques, enabling its use for any item of structural concrete. This takes the concept of pre-casting to an entirely new level, making it faster, more sustainable, cheaper and more reliable. It has the potential to revolutionise construction.”

“We’ve already seen huge benefits on major projects. We used DfMA for Two Fifty One in London which is now Europe’s tallest precast concrete building, this 41-storey multi-purpose tower includes residential, offices and retail space.”

Richard’s team utilised DfMA throughout Two Fifty One for the structural concrete design and fabrication, for all precast concrete columns, E6 H precast floor system and lattice floor plan systems.

This resulted in significant reductions, saving 50% of the labour time for concrete works over traditional in-situ concrete pouring methods.

Elsewhere, the DfMA system was also used for 7 Clarges Street, a prestigious mixed-use development in Mayfair, London. Working alongside Laing O’Rourke, Waterman’s team developed a precast floor solution called ‘Megaplank’. These are solid precast concrete floor slabs which allowed the installation of an entire floor in one day, giving immediate access to the floor plate for site personnel and cutting labour time by a third.

Offering huge sustainability benefits over site-poured concrete, DfMA will provide a crucial environmental boost for all construction projects. Generating an estimated 80% less waste and construction traffic, whilst diverting major waste streams from landfill, this will change the environmental impact of structural concrete for good by reducing Co2 emissions dramatically.

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