Improving productivity and sustainability through product innovation

18 September 2013

Holcim Singapore is supplying self-compacting and self-levelling concrete for the IES Building project. Mr Lawrence Tang, the company’s Head of Sales & Marketing (RMX), highlights the benefits of the concrete and its relevance in a changing construction environment in Singapore, while Dr Arvind Suryavanshi, Director of the Holcim Centre of Excellence touches on the direction the company is taking, to meet customer and stakeholder requirements, in this communication to ‘The Singapore Engineer’.

‘The Singapore Engineer’: What are the benefits of using self-compacting concrete and how is the process of using it more sustainable than using ordinary concrete?


Mr. Lawrence Tang: Productivity in the construction industry has been a matter of focus since 2010 due to substantial reduction in Man-Year Entitlement (MYE) and also increase in foreign worker levy. By 2013, the construction sector is expected to face a 45% cumulative reduction in MYE, while projects are expected to be delivered as scheduled without delay. Such measures have created a significant change to the industry, especially given its labour-intensive nature. However, the true effect will be felt when the industry players have implemented the new measures to respond to the challenge of the new market situation.


The first self-compacting and self-levelling concrete in Singapore was developed by Holcim, based on numerous feedback it collected from clients’ especially to address the labour shortage issue. The concrete took the commercial name of ’Easecrete’ as it eases the concrete placement process. It was subsequently adopted for two pilot projects under the Productivity Improvement Program (PIP) introduced by the Building & Construction Authority (BCA), namely Alba Condominum and Lush at Holland Hill. This concrete was also used for the construction of JCube project as this concrete was specially recommended by the construction staff at site by looking at its suitability to the project.   


From the two pilot projects, Easecrete has proven its capability in improving productivity. Easecrete possesses both self-compacting and self-levelling characteristics, therefore the amount of time taken to cast and level the concrete is substantially reduced compared to the conventional concrete. Easier concrete placement together with elimination of vibration reduces the amount of labour force used at site to place concrete from 5 - 7 personnel to 2 - 3. The use of Easecrete translated into 29% savings in labour cost as well as an overall productivity improvement of 46%.


There are other benefits of Easecrete other than reducing dependency on large labour force at site, and it can be customised to the clients’ needs.


In JCube project, which adopted a semi-top-down construction method, Easecrete was utilised to cast the columns for elements with limited accessibility, where its self-compacting property effectivitely mitigate honeycombing.


For residential projects, such as the Alba Condominium, where the project site is located in the vicinity of densely populated residential area and schools, use of Easecrete was the right solution since it does not require vibration, minimizes the noise pollution by 20%, and therefore the construction works can be extended during late evenings or weekends.


‘The Singapore Engineer’: Under what conditions is the self-compacting concrete applied? Are there any specific challenges in using the concrete at the site? Are there any special environment or ground conditions that would be factors in how it is used?


Mr. Lawrence Tang: Self-compacting concrete can be used for casting a wide range of elements such as slab, column, high-strength backfill, and it is ideal for casting elements which are heavily reinforced with steel rebars and also those elements which have irregular shape.


The implementation of Easecrete in the construction of Supertrees in the Gardens by the Bay provides a good illustration of Easecrete. Its high fluidity made it an ideal solution for the casting of the spiral staircase located within the Supertrees; however, to realise its full potential, extra attention must be given to the quality of formwork used. The formwork has to be leak proof to prevent the possibility of grout loss through the joints of the formwork which may affect the finish and quality of the concrete.


Further, Easecrete is an ideal solution for those structures oriented in a horizontal plane. Extra care needs to be excercised to avoid dropping of the concrete from a greater height to avoid the possibility of segregation.


‘The Singapore Engineer’: What are some of Holcim Singapore’s current strategies and initiatives?


Dr. Arvind Suryavanshi: Holcim Singapore strongly believes in continuous development of innovative concrete solutions to meet the needs of the construction industry. The team at Holcim works relentlessly to meet the client’s requirements and aligns its focus with the local government’s calls for both sustainable construction and productivity improvement.  By placing its emphasis on these, many solutions like Easecrete, Jetsetcrete and a wide range of Holcim Green concrete have been developed and offered as innovative solutions to the local construction industry.


As part of a global player, Holcim is committed to sustainable construction as part of its business strategy laid on top of the fundamental principles of Sustainable Development.  We believe business can be sustained by creating value for all its stakeholders. For many years Holcim has been working tirelessly in pursuit innovations to add value to its business and ensure continued success. To strengthen its endeavors in the direction of innovation Holcim opened the Centre of Excellence (CoE) in Singapore during the middle of the year 2012. The CoE is expected to perform as a Technical Hub for all the Holcim group companies in the region with an objective of pushing innovative solutions in the region.   



The Singapore Engineer | The Institution of Engineers, Singapore

Septermber 2013