The growth of advanced composites in construction in recent years has been spectacular, doubling in size in the last 10 years. This expansion has been largely due to the use of Fibre Reinforced Polymer reinforcement in structural applications and, although the current economic climate has seen a slowdown of the general construction market, the demand of composite products within the European construction market is estimated to grow steadily in the next five years.
The on-going requirement for more durable structures and more efficient rehabilitation solutions is the key driving force behind the introduction of FRPs in the construction industry as reinforcing or strengthening material for concrete and masonry structures. In Europe alone, the annual cost of repair and maintenance of the infrastructure is estimated to be about 50% of the construction budget.
Composite materials are readily used in a large number of applications and yet, a set of accepted design guidelines does not exist and most construction professionals are unaware of what composites are and rely on specialists who often use their own standards and guidelines. Moreover, little interaction exists between academia and industry and practical applications are time and again a reflection of a traditional design practice that does not exploit the full potential of FRPs and will eventually hinder the use of these new materials and techniques.
The aim of the Network was to train researchers in the use of advanced composites for construction so as to develop and maintain a critical mass of research groups that will address the main scientific challenges in the field, enable the development of advanced material standards and design guidelines, co-ordinate European research, and offer a link between academia and industry.
The know-how developed by the Network will strengthen the European Research Area on composite reinforcement and will contribute to increase the competitiveness of the European construction industry worldwide.
The consortium included 14 Full Partners and 9 Associated Partners.