Latin America 'world’s worst region' for construction output
Latin America’s construction output in 2020 is forecasted to drop to -11.4 percent from -6.8 percent previously, according to a GlobalData report.
The lowered forecast is mostly due to the slower than expected rebound in construction activity in the second half of the year. It points out that there are two major contributing factors to the slump – one is the ongoing threat posed by the coronavirus pandemic, which continues to spread across the region and cause disruptions and delays, while the other is that construction companies are still struggling to revive their operations in the wake of the pandemic.
“The revised forecast makes Latin America the world’s worst-performing region in terms of construction output and reflects the deepening economic damages of the COVID-19 pandemic and strict lockdowns imposed by authorities to limit its spread,” says Dariana Tani, economist at GlobalData.
Of the largest countries in the region, Peru’s construction output is expected to contract the most this year at -24 percent, followed by Argentina (-23.5 percent), Mexico (15.2 percent), Colombia (-13.2 percent), and Chile (-8.2 percent).
Brazil’s construction output is now projected to fall by 4.8 percent, compared with the previous -6 percent, as continuity of nearly all building activities since the start of the pandemic has helped prevent a much worse outcome in the second quarter, the report adds.
“The progress in the reactivation of projects and start of new ones in some countries has been affected by the continued increase in the number of COVID-19 cases and the heightened uncertainty surrounding the economy. In 2021, GlobalData expects the industry to remain weak, increasing by just 0.2 percent before recovering to 3.1 percent over the remaining forecast period (2022–2024)," Tani adds.
The best performers next year are expected to be Peru, Chile and Colombia, she adds, with output expected to rebound to 16.8 percent, 6.8 percent and 4.8 percent, respectively. In the meantime, activity in Argentina, Mexico and Brazil are expected to continue to decline – albeit at much weaker rates – falling by -5.4 percent, -3.4 percent, and -1.6 percent respectively.
“While activity is expected to gradually recover in the coming months as more COVID-19-related restrictions are eased throughout the region, output levels recorded before the pandemic are not expected to be restored in the next four years.
“Given the region’s structural weaknesses and longstanding issues that have been aggravated with the pandemic, including fiscal constraints, social tensions, rising inequality, low productivity and general discontent with democratic institutions," Tani concludes.
ReCreate project reuses concrete in new buildings
Reconciling the carbon conundrum in construction will not be a quick fix but researchers at Finland's Tampere University may have hit on a way of deconstructing concrete elements and reusing them in new buildings.
Its four-year ReCreate project, which has received €12.5 million of funding under the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme, involves universities and regional company clusters in Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Germany. All the country clusters will carry out their own pilot projects where they deconstruct precast concrete elements intact and reuse them in a new building.
“By reusing concrete elements, we can save an enormous amount of energy and raw materials,” says Satu Huuhka, adjunct professor at the Faculty of Built Environment at Tampere University, who leads the ReCreate project. “We are specifically looking to reuse the concrete elements as a whole, not as a raw material for something new."
Researchers at the Faculty of Built Environment have been carrying out ground-breaking research into the circular economy in the construction sector for a decade.
Long-term research on renovation and the lifecycle engineering of structures provides a solid foundation for the development of quality assurance procedures that will ensure the safety and integrity of the reused elements. This time, the researchers are set to explore not only the technical implementation of the solutions but also the business perspective.
Huuhka acknowledges there are many unanswerered questions, from assessing structural integrity to building code requirements - and ultimately how to turn ReCreate into a viable business. "We must also consider the social aspects: does the process require new skills or new ways of working?” he adds.
Tampere University researchers will also bring to the project their specialist expertise in circular economy business models, building regulations and law, and occupational sociology. The Finnish country cluster comprises Tampere University, Skanska, demolition company Umacon, precast concrete company Consolis Parma, engineering and consultancy company Ramboll, architecture firm Liike Oy Arkkitehtistudio and the City of Tampere. The communications partner is the Croatia Green Building Council.
Buildings generate nearly 40% of GHG emissions and the rising pace of construction - up to 2 trillion square feet could be added by 2060 - means finding a sustainable concrete solution is essential.
Graphene concrete on firm foundations, CarbonCure accelerates growth and Nexii expands in US
Nationwide Engineering is claiming a world first today as it lays the world's first graphene concrete slab engineered for sustainability in a commercial setting. The new material is strengthened by around 30% compared to standard concrete and so significantly cutting material use.
It has partnered with the University of Manchester's Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre and structural engineers HBPW Consulting; graphene is an allotrope of carbon and the resulting mix with concrete produces a substance that area for area, is stronger than steel, it claims.
CarbonCure manufactures a technology for the concrete industry that introduces recycled CO₂ into fresh concrete to reduce its carbon footprint without compromising performance. It was named one of two winners in the US$20 million NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE and the money will be used to accelerate its mission of reducing 500 million tonnes of carbon emissions annually by 2030. Carbon Cure believes the use of CO2 in concrete is expected to become a US$400 billion market opportunity.
Nexii designs and manufactures high-performance buildings and green building products that are sustainable, cost-efficient and resilient in the face of climate change. It recently teamed up with actor and Pittsburgh native Michael Keaton, who will have an ownership stake and play an active role in Nexii’s upcoming manufacturing plant, which will be its second in the United States and sixth overall.