Increasing Sustainability and Liveability by Reducing Building Defects in Basements

Frank Altmann
Regional Manager - Materials Technology
BG&E, Dubai

Polycentricity is a promising answer to the major challenges of sustainability and livability faced by the megacities of today and tomorrow. Potential benefits include the reduction of spatial and ecological footprints, as well as the time people spend in transit. To realize these benefits, urban infrastructure including the tall buildings defining the cityscape, must be durable and reach design lives of 100 years. They must do so without major unplanned repair measures that increase a structure’s ecological footprint and often negatively impact the quality of life, not only of inhabitants of a building but also on traffic, and hence the wider community. Especially in the Gulf region, the durability of tall buildings, which often include many levels below ground, is usually defined by the durability of their concrete basements, which are exposed to very aggressive groundwater.

This presentation outlines the challenge of designing and constructing durable sub-surface concrete structures in one of the most challenging environments on the planet, using a transient workforce while relying heavily on standards, guidelines and experience neither intended for or gestated in the region. In addition to best-practice solutions, the possibilities and limitations of novel materials and technologies to improve the durability properties and the closely related water-tightness of concrete are discussed. Finally, lessons learned from past and current projects in Australia and the Middle East are presented, and recommendations are made on how best to ensure the durability of concrete basements with minimized detrimental impact on building users and the wider community.