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Construction and Building Materials 25 (2011) 726735

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Construction and Building Materials


journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/conbuildmat

Concrete building blocks made with recycled demolition aggregate


Marios N. Soutsos a,*, Kangkang Tang b, Stephen G. Millard a
a
b

Department of Engineering, University of Liverpool, Brownlow Street, Liverpool, L69 3GQ, UK


Arup, 12th oor the Plaza, 100 Old Hall Street, Liverpool, L3 9QJ, UK

a r t i c l e

i n f o

Article history:
Received 14 April 2010
Received in revised form 14 July 2010
Accepted 18 July 2010
Available online 17 August 2010
Keywords:
Recycling of materials
Sustainability
Construction and demolition waste
Concrete blocks
Aggregates
Environment
Landll

a b s t r a c t
A study undertaken at the University of Liverpool has investigated the potential for using recycled demolition aggregate in the manufacture of precast concrete building blocks. Recycled aggregates derived from
construction and demolition waste (C&DW) can be used to replace quarried limestone aggregate, usually
used in coarse (6 mm) and ne (4 mm-to-dust) gradings. The manufacturing process used in factories, for
large-scale production, involves a vibro-compaction casting procedure, using a relatively dry concrete
mix with low cement content (100 kg/m3). Trials in the laboratory successfully replicated the manufacturing process using a specially modied electric hammer drill to compact the concrete mix into oversize
steel moulds to produce blocks of the same physical and mechanical properties as the commercial blocks.
This enabled investigations of the effect of partially replacing newly quarried with recycled demolition
aggregate on the compressive strength of building blocks to be carried out in the laboratory. Levels of
replacement of newly quarried with recycled demolition aggregate have been determined that will not
have signicant detrimental effect on the mechanical properties. Factory trials showed that there were
no practical problems with the use of recycled demolition aggregate in the manufacture of building
blocks. The factory strengths obtained conrmed that the replacement levels selected, based on the laboratory work, did not cause any signicant strength reduction, i.e. there was no requirement to increase
the cement content to maintain the required strength, and therefore there would be no additional cost to
the manufacturers if they were to use recycled demolition aggregate for their routine concrete building
block production.
2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction
About 275 million tonnes of new construction aggregates are
extracted annually in the UK. By 2012, if UK demand for aggregates
increases by an expected 1% per annum, an extra 20 million tonnes
of aggregates will be needed each year. About 60% of extracted
aggregate is crushed rock and 40% is sand and gravel [1]. These
are essential materials for buildings and infrastructure but extraction causes signicant environmental damage. Government aims
are to reduce demand for primary aggregates by minimising the
waste of construction materials and maximising the use that is
made of alternatives [2]. An attempt to address the environmental
costs associated with quarrying has been the introduction of the
Aggregates Levy in April 2002 [3].
The inert fraction or core construction and demolition waste
(C&DW), which is essentially the mix of materials obtained when
an item of civil engineering infrastructure is demolished, i.e., the
fraction derived from concrete, bricks and tiles, is well suited to
* Corresponding author. Tel.: +44 (0) 151 794 5217; fax: +44 (0) 151 794 5218.
E-mail address: marios@liverpool.ac.uk (M.N. Soutsos).
0950-0618/$ - see front matter 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.conbuildmat.2010.07.014

being crushed and recycled as a substitute for newly quarried (primary) aggregates. Although there are many potential uses for recycled demolition aggregate, most are currently used for low-value
purposes such as road sub-base construction, engineering ll, or
landll engineering. However, the costs for crushing the C&DW,
which is estimated to be approximately 7 per tonne [47], is
not recovered when it is sold as road sub-base aggregate. The selling price depends heavily on the demand and can vary between 2
and 4 per tonne. Demolition contractors are still therefore required to include for this difference and pay a recycling plant operator for collecting C&DW from demolition sites. While recycled
demolition aggregate could be used for higher-value uses, potential users are deterred by the perceived risks involved [8]. Needs
have been identied to be:
 Increase research and development to improve the quality of
recycled demolition aggregate.
 Demonstrate where recycled demolition aggregates are competitive with newly quarried ones. Condence could be built
by identifying, undertaking and monitoring appropriate demonstration projects and disseminating the results [5].

M.N. Soutsos et al. / Construction and Building Materials 25 (2011) 726735

 Expand specications to accept more recycled demolition


aggregate where it has been shown to compete technically. Performance criteria for the nished product are preferable to recipe based specications if recycled demolition aggregate is to
be used more widely [2].
 Facilitate the ow of market information.
Provisions for the use of recycled demolition aggregate in
higher grade, i.e., other than their current use for low-value purposes such as road sub-base construction, engineering ll, or
landll engineering, and therefore high-value, i.e. applications
such as structural concrete have only recently been included in
national standards. BS 8500-2:2006. Specication for constituent
materials and concrete [8] only covers the use of recycled coarse
concrete aggregates (masonry content <5%), not recycled masonry aggregate, and their use is restricted to the less severe
environments. Detailed requirements, based on specied test
methods, for recycled masonry aggregates, such as acid soluble
sulphate, chloride content, alkali content and potential for alkali-aggregate reaction, are restricting their use in concrete. The
restriction does not relate to mechanical properties; research
indicated that up to 30% coarse or 20% ne recycled concrete-derived aggregate had no effect on the strength of concrete [9].
There is concern that gypsum plaster used on internal surfaces
could accumulate in the ne recycled aggregates. It has been
shown that gypsum plaster, in amounts greater than the maximum permissible sulphate content, can lead to delayed ettringite
formation. Concrete made with recycled aggregate (RA) or recycled concrete aggregate (RCA) should also be tested to conrm
that it has adequate freezethaw and sulphate resistance for its
intended use. The maximum strength class of concrete made
with RCA should not be more than C50 [8].
Blockwork appeared to be a promising product to begin investigations because:
 Possible chloride contamination from C&DW affecting reinforcement is not an issue as common blocks are unreinforced.
 Unlike construction projects, blockwork fabrication is essentially a manufacturing process where supply of input materials
and storage of output are more easily managed.
 There may be local circumstances that would make the use of
secondary and recycled materials for high-grade use cost
effective.
The market for precast concrete blocks is very competitive. The
basic concrete building block is a commodity product and the profit margin is low [10]. Large multi-national companies, that generally own quarrying operations, dominate the sector. The raw
materials used to manufacture blocks, whether they are virgin
aggregate, lightweight or man-made aggregate, are costly to transport and therefore most manufacturers have been faced with a
choice between locating production close to the raw materials or
close to the market. In the majority of cases the decision has been
taken to locate the precast factory close to or even at the quarry
site. However, there is a signicant number of factories that are located in urban regions. This is because the standard block is only
sold regionally; within a radius of 30 miles of the precast factory,
as a result of the low prot margin [4]. There are approximately
100 precast factories in the UK producing a wide variety of blocks
for the construction industry but the standard block weighing
approximately 20 kg continues to dominate sales, accounting for
seven of every 10 blocks sold. Recent national construction statistics from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) indicate that
approximately 360 million blocks are produced annually in the UK
[11]. The estimated aggregate consumption can be based on the
assumption that aggregate comprises 90% of each block, i.e. aggre-

727

gate consumption is 6.5 million tonnes per year. A single precast


factory can use up to 500 tonnes of aggregate per day.
Local circumstances favouring use of recycled demolition aggregate may include regeneration, which involves not only demolition
but also major reconstruction, of major UK conurbations. An example of this is Merseyside, and more specically Liverpool [12],
where resource supply or feed material for a crushing plant can
be guaranteed due to ongoing infrastructure replacement. Natural
aggregate resources are limited in Liverpool, i.e. there are no aggregate quarries, and past surveys [13] have shown major movements
of quarry materials from West Midlands and North Wales to the
North West of England. In considering future supply patterns to
the North West, assumptions will need to be made about supplies
from Wales, where planning policies for aggregates are now matters for the devolved administration. It cannot therefore be assumed that past supply patterns will necessarily be maintained
in the future. It is not therefore surprising that the Regional Waste
Strategy for the North West [14] aims to promote the use of recycled construction and demolition waste in construction projects
and encourage developers and contractors to specify these materials wherever possible in the construction process. Operators of
crushing plants would welcome greater use of recycled demolition
aggregates especially for high-value applications, not only because
of an increase in price per tonne but also because this may provide
a guaranteed constant/regular demand. Block making factories appear to be interested in recycled demolition aggregate since the
price may be lower than that of quarried aggregate. This is in addition to recycled demolition aggregate being supplied from local
sources and thus reducing transport costs [10]. There was therefore
scope for investigating a high-end value market, such as concrete
building blocks, for recycled demolition aggregate.
2. Aims and objectives of project
Precast concrete factories normally operate 24 h per day. Stoppage in production is expensive and hence the investigation into
the effect of replacing quarried aggregate with recycled demolition
aggregate had to be done in the laboratory. The rst objective was
to replicate the industrial casting procedures using laboratory
equipment. Once this was achieved, the effect of partially replacing
quarried with recycled demolition aggregates was investigated.
The Industrial Collaborators required that there should be no increase in the cement content if recycled demolition aggregate
was to compete with quarried aggregates. The aim therefore was
to determine replacement levels that only caused small and insignicant changes to the mechanical properties of the end products.
3. Materials and experimental methods
Specic gravity, absorption, neness, and angularity are all important physical
properties that need to be taken into consideration if recycled demolition aggregate
is to be used in precast concrete products. The aggregate gradings for limestone
aggregate, supplied by a block making factory, as well as recycled concrete aggregate (RCA) and masonry derived aggregate (RMA) supplied by local demolition
companies are shown in Fig. 1. The concrete C&DW that was crushed to produce
aggregates came from the foundations of a multi-storey reinforced concrete building while the masonry C&DW came from the demolition of low-rise council houses
(built mainly with concrete blocks for internal walls and clay bricks for external
walls). It was expected that the use of RMA might have a greater detrimental effect
on compressive strength than would RCA. It was therefore decided to investigate
the effects of using RCA and RMA separately, with the possibility of interpolating
to obtain the effects of a mixture of the two. The proportion of masonry in the mixture is likely to vary depending on what contract, whether multi-storey buildings or
masonry houses, the demolition contractor has secured.
4 mm-to-dust RMA, as delivered from the crushing plant, was found to be much
ner than quarried limestone. The converse was found to be true for RCA. In order
to obtain a combined grading similar to that of natural limestone, the proportion of
masonry nes needed to be reduced from 56% to 43% while that of concrete nes
needed to be increased from 56% to 61%. However, the initial trial mixes indicated

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M.N. Soutsos et al. / Construction and Building Materials 25 (2011) 726735

Fig. 1. Grading of quarried limestone aggregate and recycled demolition aggregate.

that the concrete nes could be reduced from 61% to 45% and still get the same texture on the blocks as those made with limestone aggregates. The overall gradings of
the aggregates are shown in Fig. 2.
Both RCA and RMA had very high water absorption, see Table 1, which are similar to the behaviour of man-made lightweight aggregates. A mixing procedure
adopted for making concrete using lightweight aggregates was trialled and found
to be successful when using recycled demolition aggregates, i.e. pre-mixing half
the mix water with the aggregate and then adding the cement and the remaining
water.
Preliminary trials were carried out using standard 150 mm diameter cylinder
moulds and a laboratory vibro-compaction hammer drill, see Fig. 3, to simulate
the industrial technique for making blocks. The texture of the cut surfaces of laboratory specimens, which was in addition to the mechanical properties, was observed to be similar to factory blocks, see Fig. 4, which indicated that the
industrial production technique could be replicated in the laboratory.
After having successfully replicated the industrial block-making procedure in
the laboratory, the replacement of quarried limestone with recycled demolition
aggregate could be investigated. The mix proportions of natural limestone aggregate used by a block making factory, Table 2, had to be converted to volume, re-

Fig. 2. Combined grading of quarried limestone and recycled demolition aggregate.

Fig. 3. Initial trials in the lab to cast blocks made use of an electric hammer drill and
a cylindrical mould.

placed by an equal volume of recycled demolition aggregate and then converted


back into weight. This procedure ensured that the replacement was on a volumetric
basis, rather than weight, and was required in order to take into account the different densities of the recycled demolition aggregate compared to quarried limestone
aggregate. One of the critical parameters in achieving a target compressive strength
was found to be the density of concrete blocks. A range of acceptable dry densities,
i.e. 18502000 kg/m3, was provided by a precast concrete block manufacturer. All
the factory-supplied blocks were found to be at the upper limit of this range and
therefore a target dry density of 2050 kg/m3 was set as the laboratory target. Water
loss during curing was considerable and therefore the relationship between dry and
wet densities had to be determined in order to estimate the correct weight of wet
material that was to be placed in the mould before it was compacted, e.g., the wet
density of limestone aggregate mix had to be 2125 kg/m3 for it to have a dry density
of 2050 kg/m3.
Each series of mixes started with an initial cement content of 100 kg/m3. A
handful of the concrete mix was taken after mixing for three minutes, see Fig. 5.
It had been found from trials that if the concrete mix held together after it was
squeezed tightly in the hand then the mix would be of the required consistency
which would enable it to be compacted into the moulds. If it did not hold together
then additional water was added. In parallel with initial trial block-making procedures, purpose built moulds were designed and fabricated in the workshop to enable full height but half-length block specimens to be made, see Fig. 6. The
moulds were over-sized in height to allow the uncompacted material to be placed
in them. A compaction rig was designed and fabricated to produce specimens of
the required density, size and dimensional tolerance. The rig allowed the vibration/
compaction hammer drill to slide down guide rods to a pre-determined height. The
vibration/compaction hammer drill then compacted the material to the required
height of 215 mm, the height of factory produced blocks, see Fig. 7. Two to three
blocks were cast and an increment of additional cement was then added. The concrete was re-mixed for a further two minutes, and a visual inspection again determined whether it had sufcient workability to be compacted into the moulds.
Incremental increase of the cement content in this manner resulted in blocks with
various cement contents, watercement ratios, and therefore compressive
strengths.
The factory has a curing chamber that is heated to around 43 C and evaporating
water from the blocks provides a naturally humid environment. Thus a warm moist
curing environment is provided for the rst 24 h of production. However, a comparison of laboratory made blocks that were (a) air cured at ambient laboratory conditions, see Fig. 8, and (b) cured in an environmental chamber with 90% humidity, at a
temperature of 43 C for 24 h and then air-cured showed very little difference in
strength. The manufacturers use a pre-determined ratio between the strength of

Table 1
Water absorptions and densities of aggregates.

Saturated surface dry relative density


Oven dry relative density
Moisture absorption (% of dry mass)

Fine limestone

Coarse limestone

Fine masonry

Coarse masonry

Fine concrete

Coarse concrete

2.30
2.24
2.50

2.69
2.67
0.65

2.24
1.90
18.00

2.30
2.11
9.15

2.36
2.01
17.50

2.41
2.22
8.50

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M.N. Soutsos et al. / Construction and Building Materials 25 (2011) 726735

Fig. 4. Initial trials in the lab aimed at producing blocks with the same texture as those obtained from the factory.

Table 2
Mix proportions used for blocks.
Mix type

Cement (kg/m3) Coarse aggregate


(6 mm)

Fine aggregate
(4 mm-to-dust)

Total water (kg/m3) Free W/C Density (wet) (kg/m3) Compressive strength

Limestone (kg/m3) Limestone (kg/m3)


Limestone (control) A.1
A.2
A.3
A.4
A.5
A.6

100
120
139
158
177
215

1000
1000
1000
1000
1000
1000

1250
1250
1250
1250
1250
1250

100
100
106
106
112
119

0.62
0.50
0.44
0.39
0.35
0.33

2125
2125
2125
2125
2125
2125

7-day
(N/mm2)

28-day
(N/mm2)

7.9
9.1
9.6
11.2
11.9
12.2

8.4
9.6
10.2
11.9
12.6
12.9

Fig. 5. Laboratory mixing, casting and testing the concrete is being squeezed in
the hand to determine its consistency.

Fig. 6. Laboratory mixing, casting and testing the pre-determined weight of


material is placed in the over-sized half block mould.

28-day mortar-capped blocks and that of 7-day blocks tested with breboard packing on the ends to simplify and speed up the testing procedure, see Fig. 9. This ratio,
which was quoted as 1.06, was also conrmed in the laboratory. All the blocks were
tested at 7-days using breboard end packing and the conversion factor of 1.06 was
used to convert this strength to the equivalent 28-day strength. All the values on
the gures are the equivalent 28-day strengths.

4.1. Series I RCA

4. Results and discussion


The experimental work involved two main series of tests, i.e.
blocks made with RCA and RMA aggregate. In addition, (a) combined coarse and ne fraction replacement, and (b) contamination
by masonry of RCA with RMA have also been investigated. Mix proportions selected from the laboratory work were used for full scale
factory trials. These trials are reported at the end of this section.

Blocks made with RCA had marginally lower wet densities than
quarried limestone blocks as a result of the volumetric rather than
weight based replacement procedure. For example, a block with
100% replacement of both coarse and ne fractions of limestone
aggregate with RCA, shown as 100C + F in Fig. 10a, had a wet density of 1890 kg/m3 which was lower than the 2125 kg/m3 for a
block with limestone aggregate only. Fig. 10a shows that 100%
replacement of both coarse 6 mm and ne 4 mm-to-dust quarried
limestone aggregate with RCA has a considerable detrimental effect on the compressive strength. The cement content would need
to be increased from 100 kg/m3 to approximately 130 kg/m3 in order for the strength to be at least 7 N/mm2. This was not acceptable
to precast concrete factories as the cost of the additional cement

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M.N. Soutsos et al. / Construction and Building Materials 25 (2011) 726735

Fig. 7. Laboratory mixing, casting and testing the alignment/compaction rig.

Fig. 8. Laboratory mixing, casting and testing demoulding of the concrete blocks
immediately after casting.

Fig. 10. Compressive strength versus cement content for blocks made with ne and
coarse RCA.

Fig. 9. Laboratory mixing, casting and testing breboard used for testing of
concrete building blocks for compressive strength at 7-days.

would negate any advantages arising from the use of recycled


demolition aggregate. A green block made with one hundred percent recycled demolition aggregate was also impractical because
there was simply not the required supply; six crushing plants
available in Merseyside would not be able to supply one precast
concrete factory and that is assuming that they had a continuous
supply of C&DW. The aim of the research therefore had to be to
identify suitable levels of replacement that had very small detri-

mental effect on the mechanical properties so as not to require


an increase in the cement content. Subsequent studies therefore
aimed to replace either the coarse fraction or the nes fraction
only, but not both, in order to quantify the relative effects of each
fraction. It was believed that the nes fraction, i.e. 4 mm-to-dust, is
the one that has the biggest detrimental effect on the compressive
strength. Promising results were obtained for a 60% replacement of
the coarse fraction with RCA, i.e. there was no detrimental effect on
the compressive strength. However, increasing the coarse fraction
replacement to 100% appeared to have the same detrimental effect
as replacing both the coarse and the ne aggregate fractions with
RCA, shown as 60C in Fig. 10a. Fig. 10b shows that replacing the

M.N. Soutsos et al. / Construction and Building Materials 25 (2011) 726735

731

ne aggregate fraction only with RCA has more of a detrimental effect on strength than the coarse aggregate replacement. The recommendation is therefore to limit the ne aggregate
replacement to less than 30%.
The results from the above mixes have also been plotted as
compressive strength versus watercement ratio and are shown
in Fig. 11. Lower watercement ratios are needed if RCA is to have
the same strength as quarried limestone blocks. Associated with
the lower watercement ratios is an increase in cement content
as it appears that the consistency of the mix depends to a large extent on its free water content, i.e. the free water content needs to
be the same for high and low watercement ratios. This trend relates very well with the design of normal concrete mixes [15].
Fig. 12 shows the compressive strength versus the percentage of

Fig. 12. Strength versus % replacement level of limestone aggregate with coarse and
ne RCA (all mixes had 100 kg/m3 of cement).

replacement of limestone aggregate with coarse and ne concrete-derived aggregates for all the mixes with 100 kg/m3 of cement. It was concluded that reasonable replacement levels would
be 60% for the coarse fraction and 20% for the ne fraction.
4.2. Series II RMA
The replacement of quarried limestone aggregate with RMA has
been investigated independently from RCA. The lower density of
RMA was expected to be problematic. Replacement of limestone
with RMA on an equal weight basis was not possible. The increased
volume of material, resulting from the different densities, could
not be compacted into a block of the required dimensions. Replacement again had to be on a volumetric basis, rather than weight, in
order to take into account the different densities of the materials.
Fig. 13 shows that 100% replacement of either the coarse 6 mm
or/and the ne 4 mm-to-dust quarried limestone aggregate with
RMA had a considerable detrimental effect on the compressive
strength. However, a lower percentage replacement of either the
coarse or ne fraction showed only a small detrimental effect. This
is also apparent in Fig. 14, which shows the compressive strength
versus watercement ratio. It appears from this graph that there is
a greater detrimental effect at the higher watercement ratios, i.e.,
with low cement contents. This detrimental effect decreases with
decreasing watercement ratios, i.e. increasing cement contents.
The high percentage of water absorption of recycled aggregate
and the difculty in measuring this accurately may have contributed
to the curves of strength versus watercement ratio being so close
together for replacement levels up to 60%. The true effect of replacing quarried limestone with RMA can be seen in Fig. 15. It appears
that the detrimental effect varies almost linearly with the percentage replacement level. However, up to a 20% replacement level by
coarse and ne RMA aggregate can be recommended as it can still
produce blocks with compressive strengths above 7 N/mm2.
4.3. Series III combined coarse and ne fraction replacement
Fig. 11. Compressive strength versus watercement ratio for blocks made with ne
and coarse RCA.

The decision was taken on the basis of the results of Series I and
II mixes to focus on a mix where, in the case of RCA, the coarse

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M.N. Soutsos et al. / Construction and Building Materials 25 (2011) 726735

Fig. 13. Compressive strength versus cement content for coarse and ne fraction
replacement (%) of limestone with RMA.

Fig. 14. Compressive strength versus watercement ratio for coarse and ne
fraction replacement (%) of limestone aggregate with RMA.

fraction of quarried limestone be replaced by 60% but the ne fraction be replaced by 30% instead of 20%. The corresponding replacement levels for RMA were 20% and 20% for ne and coarse
fractions. These percentage replacement levels were based on
mixes that had either the coarse or the ne fraction replaced but
not both. It was therefore necessary to investigate the effect of
varying the percentage of ne fraction replacement for a mix that
already had either 60% or 20% of the coarse fraction replaced with
RCA and RMA aggregate, respectively.
Fig. 16 shows that the effect of increasing replacement level of
ne fraction has a similar detrimental effect on the 60% coarse RCA
mix as it did if all the coarse aggregate was limestone. The similar-

ity of Fig. 16 with Fig. 12 conrms that 60% replacement of the


coarse fraction with RCA has little effect on the strength and that
the detrimental effect is mainly due to the ne fraction. It appears
that the increasing the replacement of the ne fraction with 30%
RCA may have been on the high side and that a 20% replacement
level is more appropriate as indicated in Series II mixes.
Similarly for RMA, Fig. 16 shows that the detrimental effect of
increasing ne fraction replacement on the 20% coarse RMA mix
is similar to the effect it had on the coarse limestone aggregate
mix. The similarity of Fig. 16 with Fig. 15 conrms that 20%
replacement of the coarse fraction with RMA has negligible effect

M.N. Soutsos et al. / Construction and Building Materials 25 (2011) 726735

733

strength. Consistency of mechanical properties of concrete building blocks may as a consequence of the variability of supplied recycled aggregate be also affected. The mix using 60% and 30% RCA
replacement of the coarse and ne fractions was selected as the
control mix. It was then assumed that the coarse and ne RCA fractions were contaminated with RMA. Fig. 17 shows that increasing
percentage of RMA in the RCA does have a detrimental effect. Despite the scatter of results it can be concluded that the percentage
of masonry should be limited to 10%. This is also the amount of masonry permitted in recycled aggregate if it is to be classied as
concrete-derived aggregates RCA in BS 8500 Guidance for EN
206-1 [8].
4.5. Series V factory trials

Fig. 15. Strength versus % replacement level of limestone aggregate with coarse and
ne RMA (all mixes had 100 kg/m3 of cement).

Sufcient concrete and masonry C&DW was initially crushed to


be used for both laboratory work and factory trials. However, the
quantity that remained after the laboratory work was sufcient
for only one factory trial mix. The precast concrete manufacturer
requested that there should be enough aggregate crushed for several trials rather than just one. It was therefore necessary to request from the crushing plant operator to source and crush
additional material. In total, 10 tonnes of recycled demolition
aggregate was delivered to the Forticrete factory at Buxton. This
comprised RMA (2 tonnes of 6 mm and 2 tonnes of 5 mm-to-dust)
and RCA (4 tonnes of 6 mm and 2 tonnes of 5 mm-to-dust). Samples obtained from these batches of aggregates indicated that the
gradings were all comparable to those used in the laboratory with
the exception of the coarse, i.e. 6 mm, RCA. This was not singlesized but an all-in aggregate. It was therefore decided that both
the 60% coarse fraction and the 30% ne fraction of RCA should be
replaced by the all-in aggregate. The remaining ne RCA was
then used for an additional, i.e. replacing 30% of only the ne fraction of a quarried limestone mix. A further factory trial mix was to
investigate replacement with RMA and this went ahead as originally planned, i.e. 20% of the coarse fraction and 20% of the ne
fraction were replaced with coarse and ne RMA. The mix proportions used for the factory trials are shown in Table 3.
The factory trials had to be carried out between shifts and when
there were sufcient storage bins empty to hold the recycled

Fig. 16. Strength versus % of ne fraction replacement in 60% coarse RCA and 20%
coarse RMA mixes.

on the strength, and that the detrimental effect is mainly due to the
ne fraction.
4.4. Series IV contamination by RMA in RCA
Structures are commonly constructed using concrete structural
elements but with masonry cladding. Complete separation of the
concrete and masonry prior to demolition may not be possible if
contract deadlines are to be adhered to. The Industrial Collaborators expressed concern about the homogeneity of the recycled
demolition aggregate. Contamination of RCA with RMA is a concern
since RMA has been shown to have a greater detrimental effect on

Fig. 17. Strength versus % of RMA contamination in RCA.

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M.N. Soutsos et al. / Construction and Building Materials 25 (2011) 726735

Table 3
Mix proportions and compressive strengths of blocks cast during factory trials.
Mix type

60% Coarse & 30% ne aggregate


replaced by RCA

30% Fine aggregate replaced by RCA

20% Coarse and 20% ne aggregate


eplaced by RMA

L1

Cement (kg/m3)

Coarse aggregate
(kg/m3)

Limestone
RCAe RMA

Limestone
RCA RMA

93.59

L2

151.03

L3

209.56

L4

92.76

L5

158.51

L6

215.98

L7

92.93

L8

158.43

L9

211.80

Fine aggregate
(kg/m3)

471.30

669.62

808.66
0
444.45
762.59
0
435.64
747.48
0

0
0
631.47
0
0
618.96
0
0

1129.88
0
0
1103.30
0
0
1061.99
0
0

651.98
254.81
0
636.65
248.82
0
612.81
239.50
0

791.44

852.21

0
157.36
778.46
0
154.78
731.29
0
145.40

0
201.24
838.24
0
197.94
787.45
0
185.95

material. The recycled demolition aggregate were delivered in one


tonne builders bags and were placed in the hoppers. The mix proportions/weights were then input into the computer of the batching plant. The rst trial required three additions of water before
approval was given for the blocks to be cast. This resulted in the
blocks from this rst batch to be slightly wetter than the norm.
Nonetheless, the same amount of water was maintained for the
higher cement contents. The cement contents investigated were
approximately 100, 175 and 250 kg/m3. The blocks cast were labelled and one of the blocks from each batch was weighed. This enabled an accurate estimate of the cement content, see Table 3.
There were concerns that the red colour of RMA would be apparent
in the blocks. However, it was only after careful inspection of the
building blocks that one might nd the odd masonry aggregate
particle appearing on the surface. The cement paste covered the
RMA effectively and the colour of the blocks was the normal dark
grey.
All blocks were cured for one day in the factorys humidity
chamber. Five or six blocks were tested for compressive strength
at 7- and 28-days. The mixes with RCA and approx. 100 kg/m3 of
cement achieved strengths higher than the 28-day target mean
strength of 7 N/mm2 even at 7-days. The masonry mix with
approximately 100 kg/m3 of cement achieved exactly 7 N/mm2 at
7-days. However, the 28-day/7-day strength ratios varied from
1.06 to 1.30. The factory is using a revised ratio of 1.08 which
seems to be on the low end of the range obtained. On the other
hand, it may be that because of the higher water absorptions of
the recycled aggregate, there is sufcient water for hydration available beyond 7-days. This effect will however need to be consistent
for all mixes and production batches if the manufacturer is to take
advantage of the later age strength development.

Free water
(kg/m3)

Free W/C

Density
(wet) (kg/m3)

Compressive
strength (N/mm2)

7-Day

28-Day

7-Day

28-Day

211.42

2.26

1967

1917

7.9

10.1

179.76

1.19

1888

1849

9.6

11.5

181.97

0.87

1880

1852

11.2

14.5

149.47

1.61

1971

1935

7.7

10.0

143.89

0.91

1955

1906

12.4

13.4

136.52

0.63

1961

1927

13.4

16.6

135.10

1.45

1894

1874

7.0

9.3

138.98

0.88

1932

1892

12.2

13.9

143.91

0.68

1911

1886

15.7

16.7

The concrete strengths obtained are also shown graphically in


Fig. 18. It is seen that the industrial vibro-compaction technique
was more efcient than the laboratory technique and produced
higher compressive strengths throughout. As a result the relationships between strength and cement contents were shifted upwards. The strengths obtained conrmed that the replacement
levels recommended from the laboratory work did not cause signicant strength reduction, i.e. there was no requirement to increase the cement content to maintain the required strength, and
hence there would be no additional cost to the manufacturers if
they were to use recycled aggregates. Overall, it was a very satisfactory factory trial.
5. Conclusions
The laboratory part of this work has shown that the industrial
vibro-compaction technique for casting concrete blocks can be
replicated using an electric hammer drill. This enabled investigations, i.e. the effect of recycled demolition aggregate on the compressive strength, to be carried out in a laboratory. Conclusions
from the laboratory studies were:
s The physical characteristics of recycled demolition aggregates
may adversely affect the mechanical properties of the blocks.
However, levels of replacement of quarried limestone aggregates with recycled demolition aggregates have been determined that will not have signicant detrimental effect on the
compressive strength.
s The maximum replacement levels for RCA were determined to
be 60% for the coarse fraction, i.e. 6 mm, and 20% for the ne
fraction, i.e. 5 mm-to-dust.

M.N. Soutsos et al. / Construction and Building Materials 25 (2011) 726735

735

this project. The authors would also like to thank the following
industrial collaborators for their assistance with the project: Clean
Merseyside Centre, Marshalls Ltd, Forticrete Ltd, Liverpool City
Council, Liverpool Housing Action Trust (LHAT), Cemex Ltd, WF
Doyle & Co. Ltd. and DSM Demolition Ltd. However, the views given in this discussion are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the funders, regulatory bodies or commercial
interests.
References

Fig. 18. Twenty-eight day strengths of factory blocks made with recycled demolition aggregate.

s The maximum replacement levels for RMA were determined to


be 20% for the coarse fraction, i.e. 6 mm, and 20% for the ne
fraction, i.e. 5 mm-to-dust.
s Even if partial replacement takes place for both the coarse and
ne fractions, there is still no signicant effect on the compressive strength of blocks.
s Contamination of RCA with RMA is a concern since RMA has
been shown to have a greater detrimental effect on strength.
For this reason, it is recommended that the level of masonry
permitted in RCA should be limited to 10%.
Factory trials showed that there were no practical problems
with the use of recycled demolition aggregate. The strengths obtained conrmed that the replacement levels selected, based on
the laboratory work, did not cause any signicant strength reduction, i.e. there was no requirement to increase the cement content
to maintain the required strength. Therefore there would be no
additional cost to the manufacturers if they were to use recycled
aggregates for their routine concrete building block production.
Acknowledgements
The authors are grateful to the Veolia Environmental Trust and
the Flintshire Community Trust Ltd. (AD Waste Ltd.) for funding

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