The structural, serviceability and durability performance of variable density concrete panels
Thesis DisciplineCivil Engineering
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Engineering
Conventional concrete is a poor insulating material but has good thermal mass, while lightweight concrete provides good insulation at the price of thermal mass. Precast concrete wall systems have not been widely used in residential homes due to poor thermal and acoustic performance, despite being high quality products that are easy to construct. The variable density concrete panel was designed to combine good thermal storage, insulation and high quality precast concrete. It is produced from a single concrete mix which is vibrated to get a lightweight top layer and a normal/heavyweight bottom layer. The lightweight layer is the wall exterior, having low thermal conductivity providing good thermal insulation while the normal/heavyweight layer is the dense wall interior, having high specific heat to provide good thermal mass and sufficient strength for construction handling and to withstand service loads. The intention of this research was to estimate the hardened performance; that is the structural, serviceability and durability performance of the variable density concrete panel. Further developments to the mix design were made where the fresh properties were measured and thermal performance estimated on hardened specimens. Most of the major technical concerns were proved not being as severe as first thought, making the production of variable density concrete panels promising. To ensure that the variable density concrete would stratify, the concrete mix had to have defined fresh properties. Defined rheological ranges gave a good indication of the stratification potential, but the degree of stratification was also found to be dependent on the intensity and time of vibration. Slump flow had to be within a certain range to achieve good stratification but this alone did not guarantee stratification. Variable density concrete was found to have adequate strength capacity both in axial compression and in tension for likely service loads but the strength required to withstand handling loads at early ages was not assessed. The strength of the variable density concrete was found to be affected by several factors such as; degree of stratification, relative strength and thickness of the layers, curing environment and amount of defects. As the stratification of the concrete increased the thermal insulation improved whereas the strength decreased. Warping was found not to significantly affect the serviceability of panels despite differential shrinkage within the element. The amount of warping was mainly related to the degree of stratification. Warping decreased with better stratification as more stress and strain was relieved in the lightweight layer. The lightweight concrete was significantly weaker as well as being less stiff than the structural concrete and therefore creeps to follow the structural concrete. The thermal properties aimed for were generally not reached, but these mixes were not designed to optimise the thermal performance and were tested before the concrete was fully dried. This increased thermal conductivity and therefore reduced the measured R-values. Stratified concrete had good absorption resistance, poor permeability properties and was highly porous. If the concrete was over-vibrated it tended to have a rough surface finish that would require a coating. Delamination of the panels was not assessed in this research but is a likely mode of failure.