08.01.20

Innovation through dissertation

How can construction projects cut down on reinforced concrete and CO2? This is the question structural planner Georg Trauner addressed this question in his dissertation. His innovative solution won recognition for him – and therefore PORR – at two awards ceremonies. What’s more, he is already busy with the next project.

Reinforced concrete is energy-intensive and has a high carbon footprint. In the course of his research project, which was overseen by PORR, Georg Trauner tackled the problem of mitigating the environmental impact of this construction material. He achieved this with an innovative approach: instead of trying to improve the concrete itself, he used special sensors to measure and then optimise building support structures. The result: the reinforced concrete used in structural building components can now be reduced by up to 25%. This means both lower costs and fewer carbon dioxide emissions caused by manufacture and transport of the concrete.

 

“I hit on the idea by chance. Before a building is constructed, a planner and a test engineer each calculate the material needed. If there isn’t too much discrepancy between their results, building goes ahead”, explains Trauner. “However, sometimes there were quite significant differences that nobody could really explain. It was these discrepancies that inspired me to investigate this topic.”

 

His research was motivated by its enormous potential for optimisation.  If the exact quantity of concrete needed to achieve the required structural safety is unknown, then construction always errs on the safe side by using more concrete than necessary. By calculating the exact structure precisely in advance, it is possible to make significant savings in the concrete used without compromising structural safety.

International pioneer

To achieve this goal, Georg Trauner had to find a way to take the results from his theoretical simulations and compare them with real buildings. He did this by installing special sensors on a new building built by PORR and comparing their real-time data with the data used for the simulation. When the simulation results had proved themselves in two real projects, PORR took the leap: the technique was applied in a real major construction project.

 

This retrospective testing is completely new: it has never before been done for a real building anywhere in the world. “Before now, no one in the construction sector had ever analysed the completed building to find out whether their calculations were actually optimal. It just didn’t happen. However, we are now able use these findings to calibrate and improve our calculation programs”, explains Trauner proudly.

Positive effects for building planning

By improving the accuracy of our calculations, we won’t just save on building material, we’ll also improve structural stability – and those aren’t the only advantages, explains Trauner: “There is also more floor space available in the building. On the construction site, processing less material means less noise and emissions”.

 

The project will therefore help make future planning more cost-effective and save on resources. This will furthermore add to the attractiveness of investments in Austria.

Expert jurors impressed

The tools that Trauner developed for reducing the carbon footprint of reinforced concrete in order to help combat climate change impressed not just one but two juries: the innovative research project won a nomination for the two prestigious awards TÜV AUSTRIA Wissenschaft and the MERCUR Innnovationspreis.

 

Trauner is delighted by the two nominations. “They mean a lot to me: they prove that my topic meets a contemporary need. Combating climate change and reducing carbon dioxide are important issues at the moment – includingin the construction sector. Being nominated for these distinguished awards is an enormous recognition and confirms to me that I have done the right thing”.

 

Take a look at the TÜV video (German) created as part of the nomination to see how the research project verifies scientific findings against the actual projects.

Next project already begun

During the project, Georg Trauner received optimum support from PORR’s Innovation and Technology department. “It’s not possible to do something this complex on your own. PORR recognised immediately that there is a lot of potential here”, explained Trauner, expressing his gratitude to the team. “They provided the necessary expertise and all the material I needed, and created the ideal conditions for carrying out my project. It is fantastic that innovations are valued so highly at PORR.”

 

Following the success of his research, Trauner is already hard at work on other innovative techniques for the construction industry. In the structural planning field, he has launched a project on oscillations in high rise buildings. Trauner explains his new research goal: “We aim to reduce oscillations using simple techniques”. Full of passion and pioneering spirit, he has already started work.

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