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Center for




By Tarun R. Naik and Rakesh Kumar

Report No. CBU-2003-11
March 2003

A CBU Report

Department of Civil Engineering and Mechanics

College of Engineering and Applied Science

Concrete Structures for 1000 Years of Lifespan Part 1


Tarun R. Naik and Rakesh Kumar


Durability of reinforced concrete structures is mainly dependent on the quality of

the concrete, minimum shrinkage cracking, minimum to zero corrosion of reinforcing
steel, cover for the reinforcement, curing of concrete, and quality management of
concrete construction. This is a Part 1 of this multi-part approach to design of concrete
structures with 1000 years of lifespan. In concrete, cement paste is the primary active

Therefore, the properties and performance of concrete is to an extent

determined by the properties of the cement paste. The broad category of factors, which
determine the durability of a concrete structure are design, material properties, and
construction practice. Errors in design or carelessness in detailing may lead to cracking,
leading to premature demise of useful life of a concrete structure.


characteristics of concrete such as its porosity, pore size distribution, properties of

transition zone, and connectivity of pores, govern almost all the gas and liquid transport
phenomena through the concrete (Brandt 1995; Kumar 1997; Mehta 1986; Neville and
Brooks 1990; Saroka 1979). Therefore, the rate at which a concrete structure may
deteriorate is governed to a significant extent due to the permeability quality of the

concrete; as well as how the concrete is placed, compacted, cured, and allowed to sustain
stress in a crack-free concrete.

Contact with certain aggressive chemicals, such as chlorides, sulphides, acids,

carbon dioxide, and even water, causes the deterioration of the concrete.


deterioration involves either leaching of material (e.g., calcium hydroxide) from the
concrete by a dissolution mechanism or by expansion of material inside the concrete.
Exposure conditions vary over a wide range including cyclic freezing and thawing, hot
and dry desert ambient air, wind, and rain or snow. Higher ambient air temperature may
accelerate the chemical reaction of concrete leading to faster deterioration. Mechanical
abrasion or erosion by water or wind may also affect the life of the concrete structure.
These factors affecting the life of the concrete structure may act singly or, usually, in
combination. Furthermore, the concrete quality degradation mechanism may be either a
physical effect such as shrinkage, creep, erosion, and similar factors, or a chemical
reaction such as sulphate attack, reinforcement corrosion, alkali-silica reaction,
carbonation, freezing and thawing, and other similar factors.

Of the various factors cited, cracking due to shrinkage, environmental factors, and
over load/stress initiates the process to reduce concrete durability.

Such concrete

cracking, which cannot be eliminated, through minimized, allows reinforcement

corrosion to start. Therefore, the first need is for quality management for concrete
placement, compaction, and curing. Also, reinforcement should be placed such that it has

sufficient cover protecting it from deeper and wider cracks; and/or, reinforcement
which does not corrode or would corrode only a predetermined, minimum amount.

Mechanism for enhancing durability

For the cement, a water-to-cementitious materials ratio (W/Cm) of 0.4 by mass is

required for the hydration of all the cement particles and for hydration products to fill all
the space originally occupied by the mixing water (Mather and Hime 2002). If the W/Cm
is higher than 0.4 by mass, even if all the cement particles hydrate, there will always the
some residual original mixing water-filled space that can hold freezable water. If W/Cm
is lower than 0.4 by mass, some of the cement will always remain unhydrated; but, in
theory, all of the mixing water-filled spaces could be filled (Mather and Hime 2002).
However, the amount of water that goes into chemical combination with portland cement
is equal to about W/Cm of 0.2 by mass. The additional amount of water, i.e., 0.2 W/Cm
by mass (out of the initial total of 0.4) is needed to fill gel pores. This extra water must
be available if the hydration product is to be formed (Mather and Hime 2002). On the
other hand, the development of superplasticizers has revolutionized concrete technology
and has made it possible to make workable and/or very workable concrete with very low
water-to-cementitious ratio even less than 0.2 (Dugat et al. 1996; Feylessoufi et al. 1996;
Feylessoufi et al. 2001; Khayat et al. 2002; Lacombe et al. 1999; Loukili et al 1999; Naik
and Kumar 2002; Reda et al. 1999; Richard and Cheyrezy 1995). Such concrete not only
achieve high-strength but also possess improved durability.

The use of some mineral admixtures, such as coal fly ashes and other pozzolans,
work as a filler in addition to contributing pozzolanic activity and fill the spaces occupied
by water in capillary pores, thus making them discontinuous. As a consequence of this,
the morphology of hydrated cement changes, which favorably affect most of the
mechanical properties of concrete in comparison with conventional concrete (Malhotra
1995; Mehta 1986; Mehta and Aitcin 1990; Wesche 1991).

Improvement of durability of concrete has remained an active research area for

concrete technologist for many years. As a result of continuous effort for enhancing
durability of concrete structures, high-performance concrete (HPC) was developed.
Improved properties of high-performance concrete are due to the modification of the
microstructure of the HPC. The modification is significantly dependent on the reaction
mechanism among the ingredients of concrete, physical process, and curing. Chemical
and mineral admixtures augment the reaction mechanism. In high-performance concrete,
commonly used admixtures are silica fume (Grorv 1994; Malhotra 1995; Mehta 1996;
Mehta and Aitcin 1990) fly ash (Malhotra 1995; Malhotra and Ramezanianpour 1994;
Mehta 1996; Naik et al. 1995; Wesche 1991).

These materials improve the

microstructure of concrete by pozzolanic action as well as a filler effect.


performance of high-performance concrete is primarily due to the refinement of the pore

structure of concrete particularly at the transition zone (Mehta 1996, Naik 1997). Even
the proven technology of high-performance concrete can enable the structures to double
its useful lifespan in comparison with engineered structures constructed with
conventional concrete technology (Mather and Hime 2002).

Concrete structures for 1000 years of lifespan

A greater understanding of concrete behavior at the microstructure level and

performance under different aggressive conditions has improved the confidence of
concrete technologists to think about highly durable concrete lasting a millennium. The
fundamental fact that properties of material originate from its internal structure is also
valid for concrete. The principle of modifying internal structure suitably has been used in
developing a number of metals, composite, and other materials (Shackelford 1992).
Recently some efforts have been made for designing highly specialized structures, such
as bridges, tunnels, and tall structures, for a lifespan of a century or more (Braestrup and
Ennermark 1998; Dunaszrgi 1998; Holley et al. 1999; Langley et al. 1997; Langley et al.
1998). Most recently, Mehta and Langley 2000, designed an unreinforced, monolith
concrete foundation consisting of two parallel slabs, to last for 1000 years. They used
high-volume Class F fly ash concrete in the construction of the foundation. The slabs
were built with HVFA concrete mixture containing 240 lb/yd3 of Class F fly ash and 180
lb/yd3 of portland cement. Reinforcement was not used for these slabs. A petrographic
examination of one-year-old test slab that was cast and cured under similar conditions has
shown crack-free nature of the HVFA concrete (Asselanis and Mehta 2001).

At present, this seems to be achievable for concrete without reinforcement to

predict/speculate on a 1000-year life. In-depth understanding of microstructural behavior
of concrete, and possibility for improvement of it, to overcome shortcomings that causes

reduction in durability quality of concrete, with the use of chemical and mineral
admixtures, has given the basis to concrete technologist to think for design of concrete
structure that should last for 1000 years or even more. For such structures the following
items should be clearly understood and implemented.

Manage all of the design and construction aspects to ensure the structural

Designer should have adequate knowledge of material properties such as strength,

creep, shrinkage, and the like, of concrete and their affect on cracking of the

Design adequate cover for the reinforcing steel.

Quality management of material, methods, and testing.

Use of fly ash and/or other pozzolanic materials instead of ordinary portland
cement only.

Use of high-quality aggregates free from deleterious compounds affecting

serviceability such as alkali-aggregate reactivity, and similar actions. Aggregates
should also have proven reliability.

Concrete, from its proportions, mixing, methods of construction, to curing, should

be given careful attention so that an adequately dense concrete, with full
compaction and a desirable pore system may be ensured.

Adequate cover for the reinforcement along with ensuring high-quality

compaction and curing of the concrete. When proper depth of cover is provided,
high-performance self-compacting concrete should help minimize the potential of

corrosion of reinforcement, and deterioration of concrete due to poor quality of


Corrosion resistant steel, steel coated with corrosion resistance layer such as
cementitious materials slurry coated steel, stainless steel, or other types of newer
steel, should be used.

Concrete should be carefully tested and quality managed to meet long-term tests
such as water and air permeability, shrinkage, creep, freezing and thawing,
chloride-ion penetration by ponding and chloride diffusivity.

Prediction of life of structures based on corrosion rate of reinforcement


The possibility of design and construction of concrete structures for a lifespan of

1000 years and more exist, though without a proven method (by calculation or
experiments). The improved microstructure of concrete by judicious use of mineral
admixtures, such as fly ash, and other pozzolans, as well as new generation of chemical
admixtures, have given hope for the 1000-year lifespan for concrete structures. Such
concrete structures need materials of high-quality, and also needed is comprehensive
knowledge about concrete properties and their effects on design aspects of the structure,
and a new generation of steel reinforcement.


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