The complexity of formwork

Formwork companies in the region continue to grow with the launch of new products to suit the market and expansion plans of their facilities, reports features editor Shikha Mishra.
The complexity of formwork
By Shikha Mishra
Sat 21 Feb 2009 04:00 AM

Formwork companies in the region continue to grow with the launch of new products to suit the market and expansion plans of their facilities, reports features editor Shikha Mishra.

Over the past few decades, concrete has played an important part in shaping buildings all over the world - and in turn so has formwork, as it acts as the mould which casts and shapes concrete.

In reinforced concrete construction, up to 70% of the cost and a bulk of labour time is associated with formwork.

Every construction site has individual requirements and the type of formwork should be chosen accordingly.

In reinforced concrete construction, up to 70% of the cost and a bulk of labour time is associated with formwork.

"It depends on the structure, the quantity and educational level of available labourers, the budget, the aimed floor cycle period, the thickness of the wall, slab, column or whatever is going to be concreted.

Therefore the contractor and the formwork supplier should work together as a team to help the contractor achieve his expectations by using the most cost effective formwork solution," says Hans Joachim Rau, managing director, Peri.

Peri introduced the Skydeck, a panelised slab formwork, to the UAE market during the Big 5 in 2008.

Skydeck is a lightweight aluminium slab formwork system for slab thicknesses up to 950 mm.

"No individual component exceeds 15 kgs. The system is easy to clean and needs fewer props: for a 3.45 m² field, only one prop is used with a 400 mm slab thickness. Through the use of the drop head, removal of formwork can take place the following day which frees up material for the next concreting cycle," says Rau.

The company also introduced the LICO lightweight column formwork which allows the forming of columns without a crane. LICO can be used for square and rectangular cross-sections with widths ranging from 20 cms to 60 cms.

With additional ties, shear wall sections up to 1.30 m long are possible. LICO column elements are available in heights of 0.50 m, 1 m and 3 m. All elements can be moved by hand and the connecting parts are permanently attached to the panels, which mean they cannot be lost.

"This has a special advantage on the local market as the construction sites are very big and material (especially if it is small) can get lost easily," says Rau.

Falls from elevated locations are among the most common types of accident in the construction industry. These accidents are mainly caused by insufficient safety measures at the working platforms and vertical access facilities, and also due to the constantly changing working conditions.

With health and safety issues becoming vitally important on construction sites, the contractors in the UAE have begun relying on formwork systems that deliver both quality and safety.

"Doka manufactures its products in Europe, where safety requirements are very high. We also offer a wide array of safety solutions that minimise accident risk and make for a fast and cost-efficient workflow," says Peter Vogel, general manager, Doka Gulf.

Doka working platforms with comprehensive safety features, and permanently mounted vertical access facilities contribute towards enhancing workplace safety during forming operations.

The pre-assembled working platforms are ready for immediate use on the site, and ensure a maximum of safety from the first moment the crew step onto them.

The platforms, with their hot-dip galvanised components and compatibility with the framed formwork Framax Xlife and large-area formwork Top 50 systems, ensure high cost-efficiency and the great flexibility in the forming operations.

Doka beam H20 top, is a formwork beam with a built-in shock absorber, which prevents the timber beam from cracking or splitting when it falls down from a height, which results in an exceptionally extended life span. The framed formwork Framax Xlife, with its plastic-coated panel has been developed for extremely long life. In this system there is long lasting plywood embedded in a very strong frame.

"The main advantage of this formwork on the jobsite is that it can be used from the ground floor till the completion of the project especially for high-rises as it has a long life span," says Christian Pongratz, regional product manager, Doka.

Doka Gulf is currently in the process of constructing of a new warehouse and office building in Jebel Ali Free Zone. "Apart from the new facility of 50,000 m², we permanently invest in material stock between US $54.4-64.4 million (AED 200-300 million) in order to match requirements of our clients. Some major projects we are involved in have been delayed, but we believe that the market will not deteriorate further," says Vogel.

Ulma was founded in 1961, entered the UAE market four years ago and is currently based out of a 13,000 m² office and stockyard in Dubai Investment Park. "We are opening a smaller stockyard in Abu Dhabi because of the shift in the project base with the cancellation of many projects in Dubai," says Andreas Gathmann, general manager, Ulma.But Gathmann remains optimistic about the UAE market.

"Construction has not stopped completly, it will just become more realistic and feasible projects will go ahead at a normal pace. We will see less of the futuristic or outlandish developments which were being announced earlier," he says.

Ulma has introduced a versatile lightweight climbing system that can be modified - according to the customer's wishes - to a rail guided or self climbing system. Both options offer standard perimetral protection.

This [Lico lightweight column] has a special advantage on the local market as the construction sites are very big and material (especially if it is small) can get lost easily. - Hans Joachim Rau, managing director, Peri.

This climbing system has a mobile hydraulic unit (if the self climbing option is selected) with a capacity of up to 50 kN (kilonewton) and can also be used to provide lifting for materials. The system also incorporates access scaffolding option between levels.

The company has also developed and introduced its slab aluminium drop head panel system. It is easy to assemble since one team erects the supporting grid and at the same time another team or person can start putting the lightweight aluminium panels in place.

The heaviest piece of the system weighs 16 kgs. For the shuttering surface there are 2 options: a high grade Finnish plywood with phenolic cover or plastic sheet cover. Both are embedded in each panel and ensure that more than 100 uses can be achieved, if they are cared for properly.

On striking, all material can be easily transported by hand to the next level and the only parts remaining in contact with the slab are the unique dropheads. This system can be used to accommodate Ulma's galvanised steel props or aluminium props (which can be braced to offer a higher load support).

The advantages of this system are: it does not require a crane, saves manpower, clients can deshutter very early (within 36 hours) and the resulting surface is impeccable," says Gathmann.

The current financial crisis will help the construction sector and its associated industries such as formwork to come to a realistic level.

"People will start looking at quality and not material made in some obsure factory in China. The crisis will weed out the bad companies and and only companies that that can guarantee a level of stock, are healthy and can maintain service towards their clients will survive," he says.

Despite the optimism for the future, in the mid-term, all formwork companies will suffer varying degrees of losses and setbacks.

"Formwork cannot earn money sitting in the yard. And we are all competing on prices as margins in this business can be very low. But in the long term, this current situation will be better for the market as a whole and will improve the formwork industry, "says Gathmann.

Prime Tower projectPrime Tower, is a 60-storey residential tower located on Sheikh Zayed road, near Shangri La hotel. Al Ashram Contracting and Doka's engineering department, Dubai, have worked out a formwork solution where all vertical formwork elements for walls, columns and spandrel beams are raised by self-climbing platforms.

The two main elements, interior center core walls and exterior columns and spandrel beams have been divided into two independent climbing systems, whereas for the outer formwork face of the center core walls can be raised independently from the interior core shaft platforms.

The system for the exterior columns is being raised as a single unit (equal to all four sides of the building) in one climbing operation.

Doka self-climbing system SKE 50 is used in both applications, raising 780 m2 of formwork for core walls and the formwork for 28 exterior columns including spandrel beams of 1.2m height. 

The formwork process on the building's typical floors is on a 5-day cycle - every floor of reinforced concrete gets done in five days and currently we are on level 21. According to the contractor, even a typical cycle of 4 days per floor could be achieved, but due to the site's location adjacent to residential buildings, night shift work is restricted to activities such as pouring of concrete.

As the building rises, the size of the columns reduces by 100 mm every 15 floors. The formwork has been designed in such way that the hinged column forms can be shifted into the new position delivering a new column size without modification works or any delays in the pace of work.

To form the slabs, Doka floor formwork Dokaflex is being used. - Martin Hörlesberger, project manager, Doka Gulf.

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