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COIN – Concrete Innovation Centre, SINTEF

Concrete research is on its way back.

Norwegian concrete research was highly innovative, and was a world leader in many respects during the 1980s and 90s. Our competence was in the process of frittering away, but COIN will now bring Norwegian concrete research back to international leadership.

By developing new, advanced materials, new construction techniques and new design concepts, the Concrete Innovation Centre (COIN) intends to bring Norwegian concrete research into a leading position. Because, when concrete is used correctly, it has an extremely long life-cycle and virtually no maintenance costs. Concrete is a unique product, but as a material it is struggling with a certain image problem.

Gigantic offshore plattforms
Between 1975 and 1995 Norway built a series of gigantic offshore platforms in concrete – structures the likes of which the world had never seen before. This was an era which came to a proud end with the tallest built structure that has ever been moved by Man; the Troll A platform, which was elected the Norwegian engineering feat of the century.

But in the new millennium, an impression has spread through the concrete community that the authorities that hold the purse-strings have felt that there was nothing more to be done in that field.

Economic potential
However, costs related to concrete are still responsible for more than 10 percent of the construction industry’s annual turnover of NOK 350 billion, and last year, more than 3.5 million cubic metres (8 million tonnes) of concrete were cast in Norway. When such large sums and quantities are involved, even small improvements in production processes and products have a major economic potential.

Carbon fibre
Working with concrete is heavy going. Reinforcement processes in particular are responsible for wearing and often hazardous jobs. Fewer and fewer people are interested in such work, and the building industry has problems in recruiting a work-force. One of the challenges for innovation, therefore, is that of identifying alternatives to traditional steel reinforcement in concrete structures. Moreover, steel rusts. Carbon fibre has been identified as a new and exciting material in this respect.

Environmental aspects
The environmental aspects of concrete are also becoming ever more important. Cement production, for example, releases a good deal of carbon dioxide, which in turn brings heavy carbon taxes down on the head of the industry. This is a factor on which COIN intends to collaborate with its industrial partner Norcem.

Attractive buildings
The Centre also has a clear vision of helping to create attractive concrete buildings.

Concrete is also a very important energy saver, particularly as a means of natural air-conditioning, because it can be used as a cold reservoir during the summer. This would bring us closer to the vision of zero-energy building and also give us a better indoor climate.

Concrete is a highly formable material, so it is quite possible to make buildings that users will regard as less “hard” that concrete buildings often are. People in the industry claim that far too few detached are built in concrete in Norway.

Host institution: SINTEF Building and Infrastructure.

Research partner: NTNU.

Company partners: Norcem, UNICON, Maxit Group, Borregaard, Rescon Mapei, Aker Kværner, Veidekke and The Norwegian Public Roads Administration

Budget: Approx. NOK 200 million over 8 years.