Concrete and composites: a powerful partnership

This article appeared in the March–April 2018 issue of Reinforced Plastics. Log in to your free Materials Today account to download the full article.

Fibrelite has formed a number of strategic partnerships with major precast manufacturers in Europe and the USA to provide a range of composite covers to fit each company's trench layouts.

At the end of 2016, the UK government unveiled a record infrastructure spend pipeline of £500 billion-plus, £300 m of which will be invested by 2020/21. Europe is on a similar track with the European Commission's 2014 unveiling of a three year €315 billion economic infrastructure growth initiative to mobilize public and private investment. Three years on the initiative is on target and has grown to €515 bn with scope to continue growing. A Linklaters report estimated that global institutional investors have funds of up to US$1 trillion to divest into European infrastructure over the 2013–2023 period.

Composite materials play an important role in this, with expected growth in the UK construction industry alone of 42–78% by 2020 (to £510–640 m) and £1240–1520 m by 2030. A recent position paper from the University of Southampton cites clear drivers of this growth:

“As economic and sustainability pressures have grown, there is increased pressure to reduce energy consumption, ‘through-life costs’ and installation times. This has increased demand for stronger, lighter, more intelligent and more durable [composite] materials tailor made for purpose.” Predicted composite market growth to US$105bn by 2030 is a testament to this.

Fibrelite has been spearheading composite development and innovation in the access cover market since 1980. Starting with development of the world's first composite cover for Esso UK (ExxonMobil) their covers were then specified as standard for the majority of major oil companies and still are to this day. They then branched out into engineering and manufacturing GRP composite covers for a wide range of industries including infrastructure, construction, transportation and many more. When first marketing their covers in these new industries, they had to educate the market to the existence of a lighter stronger more durable alternative to traditional materials. Now their markets are far more familiar with composite access covers, often specifying them at the planning stage.

“In recent years we’re seeing more and more traditional industries favouring composite access covers over metal and concrete alternatives, the most recent of which is precast concrete trench systems” – Ian Thompson, Managing Director, Fibrelite.

Precast concrete trench systems are used extensively in infrastructure to provide protection for and easy access to underground services. As composites adoption grows, many precast trench manufacturers are extending their product lines to offer glass reinforced plastic (GRP) covering options by partnering with Fibrelite.

This article appeared in the March–April 2018 issue of Reinforced Plastics.