Echo R&D Advances Precast’s Role

RESEARCH AND new product development by Echo Group is advancing precast concrete as a building system of choice by stimulating new and innovative thinking in the design and construction of high-density residential building and social housing projects.

“Echo has research and development projects under way which will place the group among international leaders in the field and reinforce its long-established leadership position in the South African precast concrete hollow-core slabs market,” says Melinda Louw, sales and marketing director of the country’s largest manufacturer of precast hollow-core flooring slabs.”

These projects are running in tandem with the refinement of existing products to meet changing industry needs. The company is working with leading engineering practices to develop more builder-friendly and environmentally beneficial methods to build precast concrete structures, Ms Louw says. In the process, precast concrete construction is becoming more efficient in advancing the capacity and technical know-how of the country’s construction industry.

Reaching higher

“Traditionally, precast concrete hollow-core slabs have been used in buildings up to four floors, but in recent years Echo has been able to use its 30 years’ experience in the discipline to be the first to venture into 5-6 storey load-bearing masonry structures – with huge success and significant cost savings to developers.”

Demonstrating this, the Concrete Manufacturers Association of South Africa (CMA) recently published audited findings of a panel of independent professionals which compared the costs of precast versus in-situ concrete in the construction of two large residential complexes in Johannesburg and Pretoria. Their study showed the precast system to be significantly more cost-efficient.

“Precast concrete is so versatile that conventional in-situ concrete is being edged virtually into a subsidiary role because of its substantially higher labour costs,” Ms Louw says. “There is of course a place for both, but architects and builders are finding that the most efficient way to construct precast concrete buildings is to design a hybrid building which is predominantly precast, stitched together with in-situ concrete.

“Echo Group companies are making major inroads into the precast concrete industry – and in the process playing a market-leading role in developing the technique’s great potential in fast-tracking the construction of high-density housing, social housing and commercial structures.”