Ferrocement: A Better Material in Building Construction for Future Practices and Possibilities


Dr. Gajanan M. Sabnis has spent almost fifty years in the US with his career and is Emeritus Professor at Howard University, Washington, DC, USA with experience in teaching, industrial and research experience.
A native of Mumbai, he obtained his B.E. from VJTI and M. Tech from IITB and Ph.D. from Cornell University in 1967. After retiring in 2008, he splits his time in the USA and India to help improve the quality of concrete and infrastructure in India by using technology that he has developed or obtained from USA. Dr. Sabnis believes in sustainability of concrete. He built and lived in an energy-efficient award-winning home he built in concrete with recycled construction materials. Dr. Sabnis has published more than 20 books and 200 research papers read by engineers in many parts of the world and includes three in India.
He was James Berkeley Gold Medalist in 1961 from University of Bombay and is the Distinguished Member of ASCE and Fellow of ACI, IEI, ICI, ACCE and the registered PE in the US. In ACI, he was actively involved in the technical committees for over 30 years and helped establish many ACI Chapters including one in India in 1979. He was the first winner of ACI Chapter Activities Award in 1976. He was first Indian on the ASCE Board as International Director responsible for more than 25 countries and was responsible for membership growth and active participant in the ASCE Board activities initiating new programs in that area.
The journey for Ferrocement for us in the US, began in India and Asian countries and once it reached the US, it took another dimension. It became a hit in ACI, where many of us have been active since 1960’s and ACI 546, Ferrocement was established and both Bala and I participated; I was the early initiator. This presentation is an outcome of our common interest of improving quality of concrete structures to make them better, less expensive and sustainable, not just as material of practice, but also using some of “Nano-technology” to delve in the future of this a very simple, non-engineering, village material, which will become a real common material of construction and make better concrete.
At the present time, we can site examples from both the East and the West, with the use of Ferrocement in various kinds of structures. They range from simple panels to tanks to complex shaped roofs, some of which are presented in other presentation(s). At the same time, considerable research has been done to indicate in general a better structural behavior of this simple and yet very effective construction material. Various books are available to indicate the available literature (Ref. 1, 2, 3) and considerable research has been done; however, with recent research presented in the previous paper. Research has continued leading to more possibilities for the future applications.
There are specific initiatives that need to be emphasized if ferrocement is to become a much more accepted construction material, just based on the earlier presentations. How to make this material more useful and scientific should be the aim, is a challenge. Yes, ferrocement shell is good for making the structural elements of building, such as column, slab and beam work as a unit with the final outcome much better. There three main aspects, the light is shed on in this presentation.  First one is the bond between the shell and the core of elements, in spite of the natural bond; the recent work using nano-technology to use cementitious material coating to work as an adhesive and make them monolithic. In addition, this monolithic action is extended beyond to the entire system work as a unit, the basic need in precast construction. The second one is to make these units waterproof, which is another problem that is faced in India due to harsh environment especially in coastal region like Mumbai. The third advantage that the research has proven is for making the structure better looking and often even more futuristic by using the special properties of nano-cement used in the finishing of the entire structure. This property makes the structure, not just better acting but a better looking with its dust-proof or graffiti-proof property. All the three initiatives are based on the research in the last decade or more at Rutgers University in the US, mainly by the second author and is looked upon as a possibility to make Indian structures (mainly in concrete) stand out as special and economic as well.
The presentation is concluded with some examples as possibilities in the future for structurally sound and aesthetically pleasant, so that ferrocement may be well recognized. The word, nano-technology had become household just like “sustainability” to use ferrocement and precast technology contribute to more economic structures in the future. Based on the projected cost, the saving of up to 30% cost is achievable a brighter future for ferrocement. 
1. Sabnis, G.M. (editor), ACI SP-61, Ferrocement and Its Applications, Published by ACI, 1978
2.  P. Balaguru and S. P. Shah, Fiber Reinforced Cement Composites, McGraw- Hill, 1992, 530 pages.
3.  Naaman, A.E., Ferrocement & Laminated Cementitious Composites, Published by Techno Pre 3000


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