Richard Tomes, Chairman of The Concrete Institute, underpinned the value of cooperation between professional bodies in the concrete and related industries

First-ever industry-wide Conference unites concrete industry

South Africa’s concrete organisations have emerged from a first-ever, industry-wide conference united and better equipped to deal with challenges facing the concrete and construction sectors.

This is according to organiser, Johan van Wyk, of the Southern Africa Readymix Association (Sarma), co-host of the event along with the Concrete Manufacturers Association (CMA), The Concrete Institute (TCI) and the Concrete Society of Southern Africa (CSSA). He adds that the conference also served to unite concrete industry role players with the broader construction and civil engineering industry.

In future, we need all professional bodies in the construction sector to work together for the greater good of the industry. That is why we included professional bodies from the civil and consulting engineering fraternity, contractors, cement producers, builders and other role players to address challenges and form opinions on the way forward amidst challenging times.”

Tough times

With the construction industry suffering the effects of a lack-lustre economy and failing business confidence, trends suggest that the construction industry will remain under pressure for the foreseeable future. Political uncertainty has recently also led to a number of construction projects either being cancelled or postponed until political and business confidence returns to the market.

As a result, there is fiercer competition within the entire construction supply chain which can lead to healthy competition, but also may lead to price cutting that may result in a lesser focus on quality of materials and workmanship. Without proper checks and balances throughout the industry the leaning towards substandard practices needs to be avoided at all costs.

The conference, sponsored by Afrisam, Sephaku, PPC and Lafarge, therefore cut to the heart of many of the issues and raised concerns among the multi-disciplinary audience. Further, it focused on excellence by highlighting award-winning project through in-depth technical case studies. These proved that even in the face of tough economic conditions, innovation and design excellence can overcome challenges and lead to the construction of noteworthy concrete landmarks.

High performance concrete

Concrete is by far the most commonly used building material on earth and is the binding ingredient that runs through all of our industries. Quality concrete used in the right applications is essential for construction and it is vitally important that all professionals are kept abreast of developments in concrete.

Rapid urbanisation is driving the development of new concrete material and techniques to allow ever-faster construction of larger, taller and more complex structures. At the same time challenges are emerging because of skills shortages and cost pressures, which places stress on the entire industry, from the cement producers, to the concrete manufacturers, contractors and engineers.

The timing of the conference was therefore perfect and these role-players the opportunity to communicate and network, while also using this platform to share best practices. Without industry-wide cooperation we cannot hope to successfully meet these challenges. I imagine that this is the reason why the conference was able to attract over 300 professionals from a diverse array of backgrounds,” says Van Wyk.

Flourishing together

Chairman of TCI, Richard Tomes, also suggested that the theme of the conference, “unlocking high-performance concrete” was particularly relevant this year as unless companies continue to advance standards, we will eventually see how our infrastructure begins to fail.

Each company, in each sector of the construction industry, must therefore do their bit to uphold quality and to speak out where it is not being advanced. “My challenge to you as civil society is therefore, to self-govern and work together to do things right in order to flourish together.

We must therefore ensure we gravitate towards quality to uphold and support professional bodies that act in the interest of the industry and ensures that users are protected. The professional bodies in concrete, as well as broader construction organisations have a role to play in self-regulating, testing and furthering transparency in their own specialised area. In this way we can consolidate our efforts in going forward.

First steps

We need neutral industry authorities and we must ensure that we consolidate our efforts so that we are not duplicating work or wasting resources on work that has already been carried out by one of the other bodies. The kind of cooperation shown between the concrete organisations is therefore an important step in the right direction and shows we are making progress in the fulfillment of our combined duties to further the use of quality, fit-for-purpose concrete,” he concluded.

Planning has already begun for the next installment of the conference which is expected to become an important fixture for construction professionals with interests in concrete as a means of construction. The dates and venue are yet to be announced.

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