When it became apparent that the footings for the annex extension of the Toowoomba City Hall would encroach on an Ergon Energy substation easement there were two options: redesign or find a non-conductive solution for the footings.
“Luckily our structural engineers for the job, Matt Robertson and Natalie Ambroso, were familiar with the concept of FRP reinforcement bars and were able to provide contacts and guidance on the installation of the material,” says Nick Leggat, Contract Administrator, for Northbuild Construction Pty Ltd.
Mr Robertson, a structural engineer with GHD Australia, conducted his final year thesis on the use of FRP in concrete elements while completing his studies at the University of Southern Queensland (USQ). He approached Dr Allan Manalo for guidance on the reinforcement design and layout.
“The research Dr Manalo has been conducting at USQ has directly aided in the use of the FRP on site,” Mr Leggat said.
Dr Allan Manalo, who heads USQ’s research into FRP bars as internal reinforcement to concrete structures through its Centre for Future Materials (CFM), said the application of FRP bars for the project was a major milestone in the university’s research into civil composite materials.
“It proves that the research we are conducting here at USQ and the research training we are providing students are translating to actual applications and impacting the community,” Dr Manalo said.
FRP has excellent properties, such as corrosion resistance, lightweight and high-strength, which has helped it gain worldwide interest and a growing acceptance in the construction industry.
Over the past five years, Dr Manalo and his research team have been studying the combined use of concrete and FRP bars in building a high-strength, sustainable and maintenance-free infrastructure.
“In Australia, the environments are severe to use steel as reinforcement to concrete structures from the viewpoint of corrosion damage,” Dr Manalo said.
“Corrosion damage costs Australia more than $13 billion per year. Thus, FRP reinforced concrete structures for use in infrastructure applications are an emerging technology that can play a significant role in the Australian construction and civil infrastructure.”
CFM Director Professor Peter Schubel said the success of the research would boost the Centre’s efforts to expedite the uptake of FRP bars as reinforcement to concrete structures with existing industries, such as marine, building and construction.
“USQ is one of the nominated organisations to lead the development of Standards for this alternative reinforcing material, which is strong, economical, safe and durable,” Professor Schubel said.
“The work we have undertaken provides an excellent framework for reference in the development of design criteria and specifications for FRP bars so that the construction industry can benefit more widely from this technology.”
Dr Allan Manalo, Centre for Future Materials, University of Southern Queensland
Prof Peter Schubel, Director, Centre for Future Materials, USQ
Caption: USQ graduates (from left) Nick Leggat, Kurt Lembo and Matthew Robertson at the assembly of FRP reinforcement to the concrete foundation for the new annex of the Toowoomba City Hall. They are joined by current USQ students Mojdeh Khotbehsara, Ali Mohammed, Angel Baker and academic Dr Ginghis Maranan.