Durability specifications for structural concrete: an international comparison

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

Premature deterioration of reinforced concrete (RC) structures has become an issue of global concern. As a result, many upgrades and improvements have recently been made in design standards and specifications, to include requirements that account for durable RC structures. This dissertation examines and compares such durability requirements in design standards and specifications developed in the United States of America, Australia, Canada, Europe, India, and South Africa. It discusses issues relating to exposure conditions, limiting values of material compositions and proportions, and cover depth to the reinforcing steel. Both prescriptive and performance requirements for concrete durability are described. In general terms, this dissertation concludes that most design standards are based on prescriptive requirements with a few having some elements of performance requirements for durability design. The prescriptive approach that outlines requirements for material compositions and proportions, procedures, and test methods, is commonly used in most design standards and specifications for durability purposes. Though such approaches may encompass requirements for, inter alia, minimum compressive strength, maximum water-to-cementitious material (w/cm) ratio and cover depth, the desired concrete performance is not generally described. Material and construction variability are not taken into account, and even if intensive construction supervision is carried out, it is difficult to ensure all specified parameters are achieved. Moreover, requirements such as maximum w/cm and minimum water content are impractical or costly to measure or verify in practice. Generally, it should be acknowledged that this approach has limited applications and often stifles innovations.In an attempt to move away from the prescriptive approach, research has focused on performance approaches, which measure relevant properties of the concrete, in particular transport-related properties that account for durability. Performance approaches impose few or no restrictions on the concrete composition, proportioning, or construction methods, but rather promote innovations. Worldwide there is a consensus that in order to extend the service life of RC structure, performance approaches are imperative. This dissertation gives an overview of the international efforts in the implementation of performance approaches, either in design standards or in project specifications.

Includes bibliographical references.