Prefabrication Technology Saves Time, Reduces RiskTue, 11/01/2016 - 16:05
When it comes to construction, time is of the essence. Budget cuts, administration changes and global markets can all affect a new building’s development and construction companies are under more pressure than ever to complete projects on deadline. Prefabricated and prestressed structures can help reduce construction time dramatically but Gabriel Santana, President of the National Association of the Precast and Prefabrication Industry (ANIPPAC), says construction executives in Mexico are slow to adapt new technologies. “People are reluctant to change in the industry,” says Santana. “They know how to make a steel warehouse but are not familiar with other systems. We have to open their eyes to prefabricates.”
ANIPPAC tasks itself with informing and educating the Mexican industrial sector about the benefits prefabricated structures can bring to companies across the value chain. This is achieved through a series of conferences, expositions, training courses and demonstrations designed to showcase the latest prefabrication technology and Santana has no doubt about the segment’s potential in Mexico. “Prefabricated structures are popular in infrastructure as they reduce the quantities of almost all materials needed, labor hired and money spent,” he says. “Prefabrication removes the risks of working on highways and busy city streets and cancels out the need for workers to travel long distances.”
Santana gives the example of the Acapulco-Mexico City highway bridge. The structure, which is suspended across a ravine, would have been “impossible” to construct without modern prefabrication technology. Cable-stayed bridges, such as the 1,800m long Russky Bridge in eastern Russia, would also be nothing more than a pipe dream had decision-makers not chosen to take a risk on new, unfamiliar methods. “We now have the technology to build suspension and cable bridges,” says Santana. “It used to take 10 years to build these bridges but with today’s technology it can take as little as two.”
Another crucial benefit of prefabrication is that the structures are often more durable than traditional solutions. Prefabricated concrete is designed to reach 300kg/cm2 resistance the day after being installed, instead of the 28 days found in traditional construction techniques. It is also thinner and therefore frees space for design purposes. Moreover, machine fabrication removes the risk of human error, guarantees the same quality throughout the construction and so improves its resistance to seismic activity. “It was the only type of building that survived the 1985 earthquake,” Santana says.
To encourage Mexican companies to be more open to new technology and avoid falling victim to future tremors, ANIPPAC has set up several training courses for engineers and designers, including a post-graduate course on precast concrete design alongside the Mexican Institute of Cement and Concrete (IMCYC) and the Mexican Society of Structural Engineering (SMIE). Looking forward, Santana feels that ANIPPAC can play a crucial educational role not just nationally but also on a regional scale. “We believe Mexico could raise the flag for Latin America,” he says. “We want to hold a large conference in 2017 to share our ideas with other countries in the region.”
In the immediate future, a portion of ANIPPAC’s focus will be on internal consolidation and restructuring. Founded in 1967, the company is reassessing its open-membership policy as it approaches its 50th anniversary. Alongside IMCYC, it is developing a certification program that will outline clear guidelines for participation with a view to creating a more defined common strategy for the association. “Members of ANNIPAC are members because they want to be, there are no requirements,” says Santana. “We are in the process of establishing a list of requirements that all members must meet before joining the group.”