What is ‘Concrete on a Roll’ and How Can It Help Businesses Get Back to Work Post COVID-19? 

The construction and engineering industries have been a vital part of the world economy for years. Not only do they employ tens of thousands of people around the world, but they help develop new materials and techniques which can have an impact on other areas of our lives.

While research and development are continuing to produce new products and come up with new techniques for use in these industries, there can often be some reluctance to change. Some products have been used for hundreds of years and have changed very little. Concrete is a great example of this. It remains the world’s most used material, after water, and it’s hard to go through daily life without coming into contact with something made out of concrete.

However, alternatives to traditional concrete have been developed, and one in particular has had significant success being used in over 80 countries. It’s known as ‘concrete on a roll’, and the UK company Concrete Canvas Ltd produces it. Their fabric is a part of a class of materials called Geosynthetic Cementitious Composite Mats, or GCCMs, which were developed by Concrete Canvas Ltd for use in the civil engineering sector.

What are Concrete Canvas?

Developed by two university students in 2004, Concrete Canvas is a fabric which contains a dry concrete powder. When hydrated, the powder will set into fully hardened concrete layers reinforced with fabric. It’s known as ‘concrete on a roll’ because the material is flexible like any fabric while it’s dry. This allows it to be transported to building sites as a roll of fabric so it can be installed quickly and easily.

How is it installed?

Unlike traditional concrete, there is no mixing required on-site. The roll of fabric arrives dry, and it can be cut to the size needed with simple hand tools. The fabric is then secured in place with ground pegs, for example, and hydrated. It only needs to be left for 24 hours to allow the concrete to set.

What are some of the benefits to businesses?

As previously mentioned, the speed that Concrete Canvas can be installed gives it a significant advantage over traditional methods of concrete installation, such as spraying or pouring. This is because no mixing is needed on-site, the material sets quickly, and less material is required to cover the same area as traditional methods. A single pallet of Concrete Canvas can cover the same area as two 17-ton mixer trucks and compared to traditional concrete, this fabric can be installed up to 10 times faster, at a rate of up to 200m2 per hour.

Another benefit, which is very significant in the current situation, is that Concrete Canvas can be installed with a low number of workers on site. With social distancing guidelines in place in many countries due to the COVID-19 pandemic, being able to work on or complete a project with as few members of staff on-site as possible has become very important. Furthermore, as Concrete Canvas is much quicker to install than traditional concrete, workers are not required to be on-site for as long.

Having a solution which requires very few workers to install will not only help keep workers safe on-site, but also allows the business carrying out the work to reduce costs. During this difficult time for businesses, where the amount of work could have significantly reduced compared to normal, being able to continue working but with reduced staff numbers and using a more cost-effective material is really beneficial.

What is it used for?

Perhaps the most important benefit to Concrete Canvas is its flexibility, in both its dry physical form and the variety of applications it can be used for. The fabric was initially designed to be used to create inflatable disaster relief shelters. Concrete Canvas Shelters are semi-permanent structures which have significantly better structural strength and security than a traditional tent while still being able to be set up quickly, making them ideal for disaster relief. The company realised the fabric had a range of other applications, including channel lining, concrete repair and weed control where the material is used for erosion control. It has even been used by designers and artists to create sculptures and furniture.   

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