Concrete Research Areas

The research areas of the chair are as follows:

  • Parametric Design Tools
  • Numerical Concrete (FEM)
  • High-Tech Concrete

The research areas of the chair are closely related to the education goals of the Masters’ phase. The focal points are illustrated in the figure below. They respond to the integration of design and construction and provide a position for the concrete engineer in this entire process. Precisely for the early design phase of this process, structural models will be developed and validated, which are best described by the term ‘Parametric Design Tools’. At later design phases, including product development, the research aims at the advanced non-linear elastic finite element models. The term ‘Numerical Concrete’ is attached to these subjects. Both parametric design tools and numerical concrete are constantly linked to research of practical applications of new and ‘High-Tech Concrete’.

The developments in the field of supply chain integration demand from the concrete engineer to think about the support structure in an early phase of the design, being part of an integrated design team. It is precisely this phase, where the structural engineer lacks the appropriate tools to design in the limited time that is available. The know-how is there, but it simply takes too much time to gather all the information, get a pen and paper, and start calculating. Nowadays interactive ICT developments bridge this gap.
Parametric design tools have been developed, or are in development, based on good old theories like the differential method, yield line theory, lattice analogy, strut and tie models and panel-stringer models. The novelty lies in a parametric associative interface. This makes it possible to retrieve (and restore) parts from a Building Information Model (BIM) and easily change the entry graphically. The reward lies in the speed and the ability to mutually compare different design solutions or materials to increase awareness. That comparison does not end at load bearing capacity and deformations, but can also contain the environmental impact or costs.

Structural concrete is a complex material; a thorough understanding leads to both environmental and economic benefits. High-end FEM models can facilitate this goal, at both macro and meso level, particularly in combination with the facilities of the Pieter van Musschenbroek laboratory. The chair of Concrete Structures lays emphasis on the proper use of existing state-of-the-art FEM models and conducting research using them. Where necessary, new material models are written and implemented. In close collaboration with the chair of Applied Mechanics this research is expanded, whereby the scientific interest is based on the potential of multi-scaling.

Concrete as a material has so much to offer and the new technological possibilities challenge to be investigated. The guiding motive in these studies is sustainability in the widest sense of the word. In the first place the research of the chair is focusing on the structural possibilities of new, sustainable types of concrete. For example the use of different kinds of fibers, or Ultra-lightweight concrete which combines low thermal conductivity with a reasonable strength. Monolith loadbearing facades will be within reach and, with strength and shape coupled to each other, the possibilities may even increase further. Truly a sustainable solution as the material simultaneously performs two functions with interesting architectural and constructional challenges. The findings at the chair of Building Materials are gratefully used for this research.