Extreme weather events, and the associated personal tragedies, make for gripping headlines.
Whether you’re a climate change believer or denialist, you must know that climate change of one sort and another, and the occurrence of extreme weather events, have been happening for millennia. (‘100-year weather event’ is a delightfully misleading phrase, just by the way.) Yes, we know this is a controversial subject.
The fact is, extreme weather events must be taken into account regardless. We humans have adapted our personal environments to handle as many weather events as we can afford to build against. And often that’s not enough.
There are many situations around the globe where poverty or ignorance leads to poor site selection and/or low quality structures. The resulting weather-driven tragedies are sadly inevitable.
However even in ‘developed’ countries the infrastructure is seriously challenged by extreme weather events. At construction phase, the balance between design and budget guarantees a limitation on how much weather stress a structure can handle.
Enough generalising – let’s talk about concrete.
Specifically, let’s talk about concrete that is exposed to the weather, and flooding in particular.
Concrete deterioration is ultimately driven by moisture-borne contamination. Cracking, ASR, steel corrosion, calcification – all are active reactions which depend on the movement of moisture through the concrete.
These reactions will typically progress slowly but surely, until the symptoms are too obvious too ignore.
In an extreme weather event, partially deteriorated concrete is under environmental pressure and the decay process is accelerated. This is particularly true of flood events. (Wind, fire and snow all have their effects too – but flooding is the most obvious in this context.)
Take, for example, a concrete-lined stormwater gully. It may sit empty for long periods, yet slight ASR or other deterioration is working just beneath the surface. Subjected to sudden violent flooding, this surface gives way as its inherent integrity was already compromised. Suddenly the concrete deterioration process has been dramatically advanced.
The same, of course, is true of a car park roof, or a bridge, and so on. Notice, we’re not talking about structural strength here, but of gradual breakdown, suddenly accelerated by the weather.
Is there a cost-effective way to increase protection?
Yes. Proactive protection is possible for at-risk structures. That moisture-borne contamination, that led to the unseen weakening of the concrete before the event, must be arrested.
This is possible by the use of concrete hydrogel treatments.
Protecting the concrete by immobilising the moisture content, is an amazingly simple and cost-effective way to preserve the structure’s service life.
Once again, we’re not talking about structural integrity here. This is about the way that extreme weather accelerates concrete’s deterioration cycle.
The earlier you protect the concrete with hydrogel treatment, the more effective it will be.
That sounds simplistic but it’s true. Deterioration is a self-driven cycle, and can be arrested early.
Have you seen this deterioration process taking place on structures in your care? Are you responsible for an asset maintenance budget? Are you designing or building new at-risk structures?
We’d really like to talk to you … sooner rather than later. Get in touch!
Main photo by GEORGE DESIPRIS from Pexels