Interesting bits from the world of construction
Petrol Price Spike Impacts Construction Industry Further
By David Dworcan
In an industry where few catalysts have occurred in recent times, the construction & building industry stands to be further eroded if fuel prices continue to increase.
Growth in the construction economic sector was one of 3 sectors showing more than a 1% drop at -2,2% in Q4 2021 compared to Q3 indicating further erosion of activity in an already diminished, but critical employment sector.
The Construction Industry lost 65 000 jobs in Q2 & Q3 of 2021 combined. The ailing industry, hit by lack of economic growth, covid, and the riots in 2021, needs large infrastructure builds and new commercial property builds to prevent further losses from occurring and to enable growth in the construction industry again. The much talked about government infrastructure builds, have all but failed to materialise with the likes of SANRAL announcing that R16 billion in road tenders, that should have been awarded in 2021, amongst others, are being delayed once more.
The resulting hurry up and wait scenario hitting our construction and infrastructure sector will only be exacerbated by rising fuel prices – resulting in a stagnant economy and continued job losses. If the government is serious about halting the erosion of this high employment sector they need to hurry up and move. It is time to expedite the infrastructure projects, and with the surplus revenue that the government has collected from unexpected mineral and agricultural exports, they should have the funds available to do so. The question is why they are delaying these projects?
Bold actions are what is required and if the government is not contemplating it yet, perhaps a fuel subsidy should also be considered for all construction, infrastructure, mining and agriculture development projects. Logistics costs will increasingly come under pressure with a cascade of increases that are likely to reduce activity in construction projects and job numbers. The Transport Sector and the resources around this, are the catalyst for things to get moving, through efficiency and hence reliability of the roads and other infrastructure supporting industry as a whole. This has to urgently be addressed as delays in these projects will ultimately affect all industry’s costs.
There’s also been a bold move, albeit in words so far, to legislate the use of recycled green materials in these projects, which will support the global need for environmental change. These products are created from wasted construction materials that plague many countries, and the private sector has the solution for this. At this point only around 10% of building material and excavation waste is recycled, leaving the balance in landfills. Our natural resources will only have a specific life span and the ancillary markets that support this recycling construction and infrastructure sector are massive and have the potential for large job creation entities.
The construction and related industries could potentially unlock economic growth, improve infrastructure and create much-needed employment and further opportunity for entrepreneurial and job creation. The reinvestment opportunity that can be derived from infrastructure development is one to be focused upon and it is time for making bold and clear decisions to move ahead.
Virgin Vs Recycled Aggregates – which is better?
When it comes to civils and construction materials like gravel and sandstone, many civil and construction contractors question the differences between recycled vs. virgin. Although similar, each one offers its own unique benefits for your project. Before making a decision, use the following information to decide if your upcoming project would benefit from recycled or virgin aggregates.
David Dworcan – CEO Aggreg8 & BrickSandStone
WHAT ARE AGGREGATES?
Aggregates are necessary civils & construction materials required for the infrastructure, commercial residential spaces. They come in many different styles and shapes, but they tend to fall into either one of two categories: virgin or recycled.
Virgin aggregate refers to products that have been newly mined from the ground. These are typically granular or crystalline rocks, and sand, gravel, and stone are all examples of virgin aggregate. Most virgin aggregate will come from a local mine or quarry some distance away from the local market. Instead of being mined, recycled aggregate material is made from crushed concrete.
Unused or reclaimed concrete and building rubble is taken to a recycling plant, and the product is then crushed to an aggregate specification to create a new recycled product. This can take the form of stone; sand or substrate fill of varying sizes or grades.
WHAT ARE AGGREGATES USED FOR?
Aggregates can be used for a variety of applications, including backfill, pipe bedding, subbase, shoulder stone, under paver bricks, and driveways. Some people prefer to use virgin aggregate because they believe it has a higher performance rating than recycled; however, from a product performance perspective, independently graded recycled aggregates are just as durable and strong as virgin and in some instances better. Recycled aggregate can be superior in that it is made from concrete and cement and so possesses cementitious quality that has been proven to bind better than virgin aggregates.
WHAT ARE THE ENVIRONMENTAL DIFFERENCES?
The biggest difference between virgin and recycled aggregate is the impact on the environment. Virgin material needs to be mined, and this requires digging up land, using a variety of tools and equipment that all emit Co2, and then processing the material for use. All of this can use valuable natural resources, cause pollution, and consume energy.
Since recycled aggregates are already coming from a previously existing product or decommissioned buildings or structures, they do not need to be mined for use. This allows companies to conserve the natural resources while also eliminating the need for products to take up space in a landfill.
This goes towards a green build & generally reduces road haulage distances and costs while reducing carbon fuel usage
WHAT ARE THE COST DIFFERENCES?
There are many factors that determine the cost of aggregate, and when comparing recycled vs. virgin aggregate, recycled is generally the more cost-effective option. Since companies don’t have to mine or produce new material, they can produce and price the recycled material at a lower cost than the virgin material. Since recycled producers already have the raw material at their facility, costs are generally lower, and savings are passed on to the consumer.
In some instances, you may actually get more recycled material than virgin material for the same or a lower price. For example, recycled G5 aggregate can be 10% – 15% lighter than virgin G5, so you receive 10% -15% more volume per ton and less fuel is consumed moving the product. All of this adds up to a significant cost savings.
The bottom line when it comes to choosing aggregates is that you generally, will save cost and help protect our natural environments while not compromising quality when you use recycled aggregates.
What could 4IR implementation in The SA construction Industry look like?
David Dworcan – CEO Aggreg8 & BrickSandStone
What Is The 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR)
There have been several “revolutions” in manufacturing and supply chain that have had major impacts. The First Industrial Revolution in the 1700’s was triggered by the invention of the steam engine that revolutionised production in textiles and other industries. The Second Industrial Revolution that occurred in the 1870’s and was powered by widespread electrification and the resulting machine manufacturing and automation processes that were introduced. The Third industrial revolution started in the 1970’s and was predominantly driven by the advances in computing and ICT technology.
Although 4IR is also the product of technological advances, it is unique in that it blurs the boundaries between biological, physical and the digital realms. Computer driven Machines ‘speak’ to each other through the internet of things, processes respond to intelligence devised by algorithms, and humans engage in real-time ‘conversations’ with mechanical processes through bidirectional interfaces.
What truly sets Industry 4.0 technologies apart is the novel way in which hardware, software and connectivity are being reconfigured and integrated to achieve ever-more ambitious goals, the collection and analysis of vast amounts of data combined with the seamless interaction between smart machines, and the blurring of the physical and virtual dimensions of production.
The implementation of IR 4.0 would create a manufacturing environment where every mechanized automation will be interconnected through technological advancements to operate and share information without the need of humans which is expected to improve efficiencies. The 4IR industry have developed a concept called — smart factory, where cloud computing and cognitive computing, stores data and makes algorithm driven decisions based on the data received. The IoT (Internet of things) however, comes functional with cyber-physical systems that allows humans to monitor the processes in real time without physically having to be present on site.
What are the benefits and why is there reluctance regarding this technology?
While the potential benefits of 4IR in construction are clear through its implementation as it should improve the product quality while it decreasing time-to-market and enhancements in operational performance, studies have shown that the construction industry is hesitant to implementing these concepts despite the countless benefits demonstrated in other industries.
While the construction environment is complex, and the entire construction value chain involves multiple fragmented counterparts from all levels with a diverse background, to cater to the specific needs and uniqueness of each project, 4IR technology can provide great benefits. This phenomenon however has increased the difficulty of execution and further limits the ability for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to invest in new technologies and the resultant reluctance of implementing IR 4.0
What are the concerns
- Funding and financing
- Job losses & Trade Unions
- Lack of skills in technology & related
- Lack of experience
- Complexities around each build is different and environmental factors such as weather
- Legislative concerns regarding building regulations
- Eskom & consistent power supply
What are the benefits
- It would grow our competitiveness and expand the construction industry greatly
- Less Health & Safety issues, injuries & deaths
- Quicker time to market
- Quicker construction times
- More agility regarding building flexibility & adaptability
- Better management of environmental impacts
- Better maintenance
- Multiple new skilled jobs created
- Skills level in industry improved
What is needed for 4IR to become a reality in SA
- Government / international funding
- Industry bodies to drive skills development
- Industry driven innovation & developments
- Changes to legislative framework
- Tech skills development
Finally, the construction industry needs to discuss who & what should be driving this?
Environmental Sustainability is more than just saving energy
David Dworcan – CEO Aggreg8 and former President of the Master Builders Association (North)
For sustainability to be embedded in a company’s business strategy, the company needs to first build understanding of how it creates value for all its stakeholders, in the short, medium and long term by delivering on its brand promise through consciously prioritising not simply profit, but also delivering value to the society and the environment it operates in.
Sustainability as a value is best created when sustainability and governance practices are incorporated into daily business activities, manufacturing processes, construction practices and supply chain management.
It is essential that this occurs throughout an organisation and not simply in the boardroom, and should also be reflected in the daily decisions made by middle management and employees who directly affect the impact of these priorities and policies.
Employee training & awareness
Perhaps the most valid measure of whether sustainability is integrated into a business is the extent to which its employees adopt continual improvement in environmental performance. Training and engagement of employees is a vital element of any sustainability strategy.
Training should cover a range of topics, including environmental compliance, stakeholder concerns on environmental issues, the impacts of resource use and pollution on society and the environment, emergency preparedness for environmental incidents, and practical ways to drive continuous improvements in energy efficiency and environmental performance.
Approach to improving business environmental & sustainability impact should include:
- Industry best practice adoption
- Environmental & sustainability policy development & implementation
- Incorporating green technologies at multiple levels within the business as possible
- Investment in more energy efficient and cleaner technologies and the use of recycled products wherever available
Green governance requires proper management oversight and planning, measurements for implementation, and the direct involvement of decision makers with authority to make financial investment decisions.
Common measurements include:
- Natural resources: Raw material sourcing, land use, water and energy consumption are some key focus areas. What policies are in place to drive safe and sustainable practices concerning natural resources? Does the company use renewable energy sources or materials?
- Climate change: What risk does the business pose on people and the planet as well as what risks could the business be exposed too from climate change factors such as drought, flooding etc. Pollution and carbon emission tracking and de-carbonization strategies typically fall under this measure.
- Pollution and waste: How does a company manage its waste? Does it have waste management strategy in place including waste avoidance, minimization, re-use, and recycling strategies? How is it mitigating pollution including noise, dust and water pollution?
Our focus on the Future:
BricksandStone and its sister company Aggreg8 (a Global Green Tag Company) has made a firm commitment to ensuring that we look after our environment and practice recycling as part of our business lives every day. We know that in order for our future to look better as a society we need to practice our policy of sustainability not just when people are looking but in every action and decision we take.
If you have any ideas on how the building trade can improve on its environmental sustainability, we would love to hear from you.
Cement Industry Boost deserves more consideration
David Dworcan – CEO Aggreg8 and former President of the Master Builders Association (North)
The building industry has seen two significant announcements this month that are certainly welcome, namely the commitment by the SA government to rolling out the 50 strategic integrated projects prioritised by the state over the next three years to the tune of R340 Billion, and the decision by the National Treasury that only locally produced cement is to be used in all state development projects as of November 2021.
While a free market should prevail and cement and other imports do keep local manufacturers competitive, a time has come where government support needs to be in place to protect jobs and livelihoods in the building industry in SA that has been battered over the last few years. In this instance it does make sense that government support local for their infrastructure spend to stimulate and grow our internal economy. This is a good decision that hopefully will come to fruition without delays and the endemic trail of corruption and rent seeking that so often simply pushes the price of these developments up. There are several other factors that are at play within this scenario that should also be considered:
The Multiplier effect
There should be scope built into these projects that not only supports and boosts a few large players in the construction & related industries, but also provides opportunities for SME’s to benefit. In order for this policy to have maximum effect it should also include policy that creates a knock-on effect to smaller suppliers who often create more jobs than larger entities. More jobs mean more demand for technical skills and develop further opportunities in terms of training and skill development in order to meet the increased demand for product and related services and suppliers.
This is good for the whole economy and results not only in less imported goods consumed but also in fewer imported skills and more local employment.
Meeting demand essential
A major obstacle in the past has been that the building industry has experienced shortages of cement supply for multiple reasons and these led to the growth of cement imports at landed costs that were highly competitive. It is also likely, that need for cement imports will still remain, as the demand for locally produced cement for major infrastructure development projects is likely to create demand from other sectors of the building trade that currently would only be able to be met by imported product.
As long as there is sustained cement supply in the building industry, the industry will grow. The building industry has experienced many periods where demand has completely outstripped supply and it is now up to local manufacturers to step up to the plate in the most competitive and efficient manner to grow the industry and hopefully expand supply of locally produced cement.
The longer term objective of stabilising the economy will only be achieved by ensuring growth in the big economic sectors such as construction and this will have the knock-on effect of improving investment levels and the rand exchange rate, thereby making imported products less viable in the local market.
As government is addressing much needed policy to stimulate growth in the building industry it would seem like the most opportune time for them to address another area of concern in the building trade – recycling and sustainability. Concrete is not only the most used product in the world by volume, it is also the most recyclable product where as much as 95% can be recycled and re-used in construction. The Government has had recycling on its agenda for a long time without any significant progress and is also busy looking at introduction of mandated use of recycled building materials in infrastructure development projects. A policy requirement for recycled building materials to make up a percentage of materials used in the construction of the strategic development projects should be introduced without delay. Not only would this develop a secondary industry to the building trade but ensure a cleaner, healthier landscape with fewer landfills and unsightly building materials illegally dumped across our cities and suburbs.
Construction Pollution on the Increase
Construction pollution has many forms from air, water, soil, and/or noise pollution. This is caused by materials used, such as harmful chemicals used during the construction or waste being dumped in sensitive areas or construction sites that are close to fresh water sources.
The most common types of pollution found on Construction sites are dust and diesel emissions. Dust pollution being a very common Construction Site pollution, It may contain Microscopic solids or liquid droplets, they are minute enough to seep into the lungs and cause health issues such as wheezing, Bronchial infections, dermatitis, Asthma attacks and more. It can also contain chemical particles that can cause long-term Health issues.
Out of 195 Counties, South Africa currently sits at 37 on the list of the most polluted, with stats standing at 21.56 Average PM2,5 (Fine particulate matter 2.5) refers to tiny particles or droplets in the air that are two and one-half microns or less in width.
The source of this pollution is car, truck, bus and off-road vehicle exhaust fumes and from building and other operations that involve the burning of fossil fuels such as wood, heating oil or coal. Consideration to our communities around our construction sites plays a role in reducing pollution on site and the surrounding areas.
Ways to reduce Construction Pollution
Time: Consider time management on site. Decrease the amount of time spent on site. Modular construction can decrease time and speed up the process. “Modular construction – is a process where pieces and structures are built off-site in manufacturing plants before being transported to the job site
Vehicles: Construction sites require the use of machinery. It is a tough one to overcome. However, the use of economic fuel-efficient vehicles “Tier 4 equipment” reduces hydrocarbon emissions. Reducing machine idling time can also help reduce emission and will benefit in more ways than one by also reducing fuel expenses and reducing air pollution.
Clean-Up: No one enjoys cleaning up after a long day’s work. So create a clean-up policy, have bins laid out across your construction site, so your workers can have a clean Working environment and ensure waste is removed safely and not affecting surrounding environments
Turning Trash into Treasure
Landfill health needs to be addressed urgently in South Africa
A recent research study regarding landfills in South Africa found that: During the period of 2008 to 2015 there was a significant increase in the number of waste sites – from 42 to 1,086 in 2015. The analysis also indicated that the distance from residential homes to the nearest site decreased from 68.3km in 2008 to 8.5km in 2015
The analysis further showed that people living within 5km of a waste site were at a higher risk of certain health conditions. Higher health risks determined were: a 41% higher risk of asthma, an 18% higher risk of developing tuberculosis, a 25% higher chance of having diabetes, and an 8% greater chance of having depression compared to those who lived further than 5km from a waste site.
There has been an increasing amount of waste & building rubble produced by an ever increasing population and its associated activities and the expansion of metro areas throughout SA.
The result is that enormous volumes of waste & rubble are being produced in high density, rapidly expanding living areas with insufficient waste management systems and waste processing plants and areas to effectively deal with the growing volume.
This also leads to vast unsightly and dangerous areas in Urban cities, where building rubble is dumped illegally, creating further health and safety concerns.
In developing economies such as South Africa, costly and complex waste operations must compete for funding with other priorities such as clean water and other utilities, education, and health care. Waste management is often administered by local authorities with limited resources and limited capacity for planning, contract management, and operational monitoring. These factors make sustainable waste management a complicated proposition and most low- and middle-income countries and their cities struggle to address the challenges. The impacts of poor waste management are dire and fall dis proportionally on the poor, who are often unserved or have little influence on the waste being disposed of formally or informally near their homes.
According to a 2018 report by the South African Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, only 10% of our waste is recycled. The remaining estimated 98 million tons is deposited into landfill sites each year.
Comparatively South Africa produces less waste per capita (around 0,5-1kg per person per day) compared to many other developed countries where up to 1,5kg of waste or more is generated per person per day. The difference is that these developed economies have far more advanced waste management systems in place that ensure that up to 70% or more of their waste volumes are recycled.
Concrete Facts – The Sustainability of Concrete in a modern Urban world
By David Dworcan, CEO Aggreg8
As the world continues to urbanize, many countries will face challenges in meeting the needs of their growing urban populations, including those for housing, transportation, energy systems and other infrastructure, as well as for employment and basic services such as education and health care.
The United Nations projections for Urban settlement indicates that over 68% of the global population will be Urban dwellers by 2050 – only 29 years away.
The Global trend towards urbanization will result in many countries facing massive challenges in meeting the dwelling infrastructure needed to provide adequate community infrastructure in growing urban populations, including housing, transportation, energy systems, as well as infrastructure for employment, education and health care services.
It is estimated that as much as three in five cities worldwide with at least half a million inhabitants are at high risk of a natural disaster. Collectively, these cities are home to 1.4 billion people or around one third of the world’s urban population. Developments of the future need to have greater weight placed on environmental impacts.
Wide use of concrete structures in urban developments can not only reduce environmental impact but also ensure longevity of structures with the added benefit that concrete is fully recyclable.
Concrete is a versatile building material, in fact Concrete is the most man-made used substance. Concrete is made of cement, sand, aggregates, water and admixtures. It can be molded when in it’s in a “wet” state and solidifies over time, gaining strength and durability.
Cement is the ‘glue’ which binds the ingredients of concrete together. It is a powdery material which when mixed with water, sand and gravel forms concrete. When mixed with water and sand it makes mortar.
The amazing properties of concrete:
Non-combustible – Concrete does not burn: providing fire safe structures especially in Urban settings
Non Oxidative – Concrete does not rust: providing low maintenance and durability
Rot-proof – Concrete does not rot: reducing risk of unseen damage
Insect-proof – Concrete does not suffer from insect damage: reducing risk of unseen damage and longevity of structures
Flood-resilient – Concrete does not swell and warp when wet: providing resilience to flooding and internal water damage
Zero emissions – Concrete does not emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can harm the environment
Water non toxicity – Concrete is inert: it can be used to store and supply clean drinking water safely
Heat-reflective – Concrete has high light reflection: the light-coloured surface of concrete reflects heat whereas dark surfaces like asphalt absorb heat and cause the problematic urban heat island effect
Water-permeable – Concrete paving can be created to be permeable to water: This reduces flooding during heavy downpours as water can permeate through the surface
Reduces vehicle emissions – Concrete paving is very rigid and forms hard surfaces that are vehicle friendly and provide great traction thereby reducing vehicle emissions
Thermal mass – Concrete has thermal mass, like stone and masonry, which can be used by designers to reduce energy demand.
Range of Densities Possible – Concrete can be made in a range of densities from lighter than water (10kN/m3) to heavy concretes (30kN/m3) that are used in hospitals to absorb radiation: typical concrete density is 23kN/m3
Compressive strength – Concrete has compressive strength: strengths from 5MPa (economic low strength masonry) to 80MPa (high rise buildings) and can be designed to have more than double this strength for ultra-high performance
Tensile strength – Reinforced Concrete has tensile strength: concrete is compatible with reinforcement steel which provides tensile capacity and together they make the most widely used composite material in the world
Available & Affordable – Concrete is locally produced. It is widely available and suitable to build at a reasonable cost, without compromising on quality and strength and with low maintenance costs
Recyclable – Concrete is one hundred percent recyclable. All its components are recyclable which can support a circular economy with environmental benefits, job creation and renewable resources.
Concrete Sustainable benefits
Taking a whole-life cycle performance into account, concrete has a low carbon footprint thanks to its durability, to its thermal mass effect, to its recyclability and to the carbonation of cementitious materials. South Africa has a great opportunity to build sustainable and environmentally friendly urban developments through promoting the use of concrete and better management of building waste by building material recycling regulations into its policies.