There has been practically no change in the constituents of Ferrocement right from the day it was patented by Mr. Lambot. Ferrocement consists of cement sand mortar, wire mesh and skeletal steel. With the same system, Ferrocement is being manufactured even for the present with addition of latest in admixtures, wire mesh of different types of materials, addition of strength of mortars and fibres etc. Thus improvements in the properties and performance of Ferrocement is being effected. For wider acceptance and applications, Ferrocement has a handicap to compete with conventional materials such as Reinforced cement concrete, Prestressed Concrete and Structural Steel produced by steel rolling mills. The author has modified conventional Ferrocement by incorporation of light structural steel in ferrocement body. He has manufactured Ferrocement plates, joists, channels, angles, rectangular section and used them as equivalent to structural steel sections. This is being done since about 25 years. He is confident such Ferrocement structurals can be successfully used for larger structures such as high rise buildings, bridges, marine structures, transmission line towers etc. The performance of such structures shall be far superior.

J. A. Desai, CEO, J A Desai Ferrocements P. Ltd., Mumbai, India

Introduction

The architects, consultants and general user without going in more details about Ferrocement properties rarely accept Ferrocement as a material of construction in view of its small cover to the reinforcement, thin section and waterproofing quality which is generally not believable. This is due to inertia that there is averseness to accept new developments unless it is found that there is no other alternative other than to accept it under adverse situations.

Ferrocement has far superior quality to take tensile stresses. Ferrocement has to its credit that as a thin section it has created a niche of its own. With the thin section many outstanding durable structures such as large span roofs, marine structures, houses etc. having curved and folded shapes have been constructed. It has clear edge over similar structures constructed in Reinforced cement concrete, not to talk of similar structure constructed with structural steel. Low cover of 3 to 5 mm (1/8" x 1/5") is sufficient to protect the wire mesh reinforcement, since Ferrocement has high crack arrest mechanism. It has a weakness that it cannot take the flextural, shear and torsional stresses to be in tandem with reinforced cement concrete and steel structures. Ferrocement cannot be at shoulder to shoulder along with reinforced cement concrete and structural steel in view of such negative aspect.

Precast Ferrocement Structurals in Lieu of Rolled Steel Structurals
 
Precast Ferrocement Structurals in Lieu of Rolled Steel Structurals
Ferrocement Plates & beams for tank
 
Ferrocement Plate

Precast Ferrocement Structurals in Lieu of Rolled Steel Structurals
 
Precast Ferrocement Structurals in Lieu of Rolled Steel Structurals
Ferrocement channel
 
Soffit of Ferrocement channel

This handicap has been removed by incorporation of light structural steel sections in ferrocement body. This modified form of Ferrocement is quite suitable to manufacture Ferrocement plates, joists, channels etc. Thus, the light structural steel plays most significant part to perform the required functions. The quality of the products is much more assured since the manufacturing is carried out on specially developed machinery setup under controlled conditions. The process has very wide scope for Ferrocement production to manufacture on assembly line similar to automobile industries. In that case civil engineering products shall be produced exceedingly fast to meet with any demand from the society.

Precast Ferrocement Structurals with Light Structural steel

Precast Ferrocement Structurals in Lieu of Rolled Steel Structurals
Ferrocement joist Figure 1: Structures have been constructed with Ferrocement structurals
Thin body of Ferrocement is modified by incorporation of m.s. flats of size 12 x 3 mm (1/2" x 1/8") to 25 x 5 mm (1" x 1/5") or m.s. angles of size 20 x 20 x 3 mm (3/4" x 3/4" x 1/8") to 25 x 25 x 5 mm (1" x 1" x 1/5") or so. With the thin section of Ferrocement, plates, joists, channels, angles and small rectangular sections are manufactured. With these modifications, the Ferrocement structurals take flexture, shear and torsion quite efficiently. The performance has been on the same lines as steel structurals from rolling mills. The manufacturing is carried out on specially designed plant under highly controlled quality control conditions with water cement ratio as low as 0.3 to 0.4 and cover maintained evenly successfully. The product has hard surface with crack arrest mechanism.

Precast Ferrocement Structurals in Lieu of Rolled Steel Structurals
Figure 2: These are elevation treatment fins to office building. the fins are 40mm th. x 200 mm wide and 3.75 Mtr. long attached to the building, using ferrocement cleats and stainless steel bolts.
The steel requirement in such Ferrocement structurals is about 60% of equivalent steel structural. The balance strength of 40% is developed by cement matrix along with wire mesh layers. The steel content in the Ferrocement structural member is variable at different locations along its length depending upon bending moment and shear force development etc. In the case of rolled steel sections, such variation is not possible since the product is extruded in the rolling mills and section remains constant from one end of the member to the other end, which can be more than necessary to resist the developed bending moment, shear force etc.

These F.C. products are being manufactured and used since last 25 years for different purposes for manufacturing water storage tanks, beams and columns for certain purposes. The product being precast, the quality is assured. The scope of utility of structurals has become widespread to be used as direct alternative to steel as well as R.C.C. structures. These can range from high rise buildings, bridges, transmission line towers, marine, irrigation and industrial structures subjected to pollution, water and effluent treatment plant structures. The photographs shows in Fig 1, 2 & 3 structures manufactured with Ferrocement structurals used suitably:-

Advantages

Corrosion

The Ferrocement structurals being manufactured using mechanised processes with specially developed machinery set up under controlled conditions have very hard surface. The surfaces are made to resist carbonation, pollution and arrest crack formations. This feature of Ferrocement structurals scores very much against steel structurals (which has to face corrosion phenomena), being manufactured in rolling mills. This feature shall replace structural steel in future time to come. The advantage shall be saving of cost of corrosion prevention which is very huge. In U.S.A. the annual expenditure for corrosion prevention in all industries has been known to be about $270 billion and in India it is around $2500 millions. Thus cost of corrosion prevention is eliminated.

Precast Ferrocement Structurals in Lieu of Rolled Steel Structurals
 
Precast Ferrocement Structurals in Lieu of Rolled Steel Structurals
Ferrocement rectangular underground water storage tank with Pump House. Capacity 35000 liters (7780 gallons)
 
Ferrocement underground faceted cylindrical water storage tank. Capacity 50000 liters (11100 gallons)

Precast Ferrocement Structurals in Lieu of Rolled Steel Structurals
 
Precast Ferrocement Structurals in Lieu of Rolled Steel Structurals
Horizontal extension of a room upto 1.5 Mtrs. (5 ft.)
 
Rectangular Ferrocement structural to support Ferrocement Plates for a roof
Figure 3: Photographs of structures constructed with Ferrocement structurals with plates, joists, channels, beams and columns

Saving in mineral & electrical energy

The requirement of steel in production of Ferrocement structurals in lieu of steel structurals of the same strength is estimated to be 60%, the rest being taken over by cement matrix and wire mesh. Thus it is estimated to have a saving of 40% of steel in production of Ferrocement structurals against manufactured steel structurals. Consequently, the mineral requirement is reduced and there less extraction from the soil to that extent. Hence the mineral iron ore is conserved for the future. As a matter of fact, certain countries as a policy have stopped excavating their minerals and prefer to import from other countries in order to preserve their natural resources for future generations. Thus production of Ferrocement structurals is environment friendly. Carbonation phenomena has not been observed at all on Ferrocement surfaces. There is indirect advantage in reduction to certain extent, in requirement of electrical energy since requirement of steel is reduced.

For every tonne of steel saved, there is saving of 1200 Kgs. of iron ore, 500 Kgs. of coal and 20 Kgs. of lime stone from the mines of mother earth & saving in electricity.

Saving in Cost
  1. Reduction in cost for less requirement of structural steel and participation of cement matrix to take loads.
  2. Saving in cost of corrosion prevention materials and treatments required for preservation of structural steel.
  3. Saving in cost of less requirement of electrical energy.
Precast Ferrocement Structurals in Lieu of Rolled Steel Structurals
 
Precast Ferrocement Structurals in Lieu of Rolled Steel Structurals
Ferrocement roof panel being lifted to 8th floor level. Alternative to steel plate.
 
Ferrocement beam being lifted to 8th floor level. Alternative to steel "I" section.

Steel plates, girders and wide flange beams elimination

Plate girders are of large depth manufactured at site with vertical steel plate and web and fabricated consisting of number of steel plates at top and bottom with stiffeners. Whereas such large depth girders can be manufactured at Ferrocement Precast Mills either full or in parts, transported to site and installed. Top and bottom shall be one single rectangular section. Thus cumbersome method of steel fabrication of no. of top and bottom plates is eliminated.

Precast Ferrocement Structurals in Lieu of Rolled Steel Structurals
 
Precast Ferrocement Structurals in Lieu of Rolled Steel Structurals
Staircase Flight winding down with landing
 
Single Flight down to up. Span 2.4 mtr. (8 ft.)

Wide flange beams are specially manufactured at Rolling Mills. These can be conveniently manufactured at Ferrocement Precast Mills as normal process with elimination of special process arrangement at Steel Rolling Mills.

Conclusion

With the above experience for a long period, it will be possible to construct large structures such as high rise buildings, bridges, transmission line towers, marine, irrigation and industrial structures, water and effluent treatment plant structures and such other structures. Sufficient work have been done in development of Ferrocement structurals. Still much basic work is required to be done before implementing large scale projects for replacing rolled structural steel.

Precast Ferrocement Structurals in Lieu of Rolled Steel Structurals
 
Precast Ferrocement Structurals in Lieu of Rolled Steel Structurals
Landing flight visible – thickness of riser and trade, 60 mm (2.5") incl. Finishes.
 
The elegance of soffit of Ferrocement roof. Increase in storage space as compared to Steel trusses.
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