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Design of Ultra-Thin Whitetopping

Arshil Abbas Naqvi

Department of Civil Engineering, IIT Kanpur, Kanpur INDIA, 208016

Abstract. Increasing traffic volumes, traffic loads and tyre pressures are increasing the distresses to our
existing pavements. So efficient, cost effective and quick solutions are required. Thats where Ultra-Thin
Whitetopping comes into the picture. It is a very quick overlaying method that is giving promising results
in regard to structural strength, low maintenance and longevity. This paper talks about the properties,
advantages and the design philosophy of the Ultra-Thin Whitetopping.

Keywords: Ultra-Thin Whitetopping, Concrete Overlays, Design, UTW.

To cater to the transportation needs of the world, there is a large network of roads, most
of which are bituminous pavements. Bituminous pavements get deteriorated in time when
subjected to regular repetitions of the traffic either due to rutting, ageing or general
damage. So, layers are overlaid on the existing damaged pavement to extend the life of
the pavement. These distresses are specially pronounced in hot tropical countries like
India, since bitumen gets soft at high temperature. And because of this property of
bitumen, concrete is being used for overlaying in place of traditional bituminous overlays
since concrete is relatively hard and not very much affected by hot climate.

So, whitetopping is the process of laying a thin concrete overlay on an existing

bituminous pavement that has deteriorated. Concrete overlays give us the possibility of
inflated structural strength, increased service life and downsized maintenance. Based on
thickness concrete overlays are classified into the following three categories:

Conventional >200mm
Thin Whitetopping 100-200mm
Ultra-Thin Whitetopping <100mm

Design Philosophy
Ultra-Thin Whitetopping is generally adopted when there is no excessive bottom up
fatigue in the existing HMA layer. Rutted pavements are the most prominent where UTW
is used. If there are alligator cracks or potholes on the surface then the UTW will not be
able to form an acceptable bond with the HMA layer. Pavements with underlayed
drainage systems are also not suitable for UTW.

The following approach is considered while designing ultra-thin whitetopping for any
existing HMA pavements:

First of all the characteristics of the existing HMA pavement, like

thicknesses, equivalent modulus and the extent of damage, are measured.
Then the design life is estimated, based on the number of years of future
service and expected average daily traffic.
Finally the design parameters, like thickness, mix design and joint spacing,
are decided depending upon the characteristics of the existing HMA
pavement which were measured earlier.

Design Considerations
Although there are various considerations while deciding on the thickness of the Ultra-
Thin Whitetopping, its thickness is kept around 50mm to 100mm, depending upon the
traffic requirements. The concrete mix can be designed in a way to accommodate our
chosen thickness.

The existing HMA layer, to which the UTW bonds to, should be at least 75mm
thick to provide a sufficient base for the UTW.

Mix Design
Plain Cement Concrete (PCC) mixes used for normal construction projects are generally
used for whitetopping also. Requirements for opening to traffic is often the criteria for
selecting the concrete mix of a UTW project. As of today, the techniques for fast-track
paving are well developed. Many PCC mixes can be made that can provide the structural
strength required for opening to traffic in 14-16 hours
A normal mix design includes:
Coarse and fine aggregates
Air-entraining agents
Generally a lower water-cement ratio is adopted for UTW (less than 0.40). UTW projects
usually have a water-cement ratio around 0.28 to 0.30. Structural fibres have also been
used in many UTW projects. The workability may be achieved by the use of admixtures
for a slump requirement of 25-50 mm.
Cement content of UTW is very high, but it should not exceed 540 kg/m3. Because of the
heat of hydration extra care is required while using very high cement content. Since, high
cement content is also susceptible to cracking, the cement content is usually around 350
kg/m3. So it is preferred to decrease the water content instead of increasing the cement
content in order to increase the strength of the concrete.
Jointing is done soon after placing the UTW, since it is cured in a short time. Delaying in
jointing may result in cracks due to the hardening of the concrete. Saw joints are usually
used in concrete overlays.

Joint spacing is usually 12-18 times the pavement thickness. It is also ensured that
the longitudinal joints remain out of the wheelpath of the vehicles as much as possible.
Short joint spacing is also a key aspect of UTW. It is because of short joint spacing that
the flexural stresses dont develop to a critical level.

Properties of Ultra-Thin Whitetopping

Very low thickness. Possible due to the bond between the existing HMA layer and
the UTW overlay. That is achieved by milling and cleaning of the existing HMA
The bond between the UTW and HMA layer is the most essential aspect of the UTW
which separates it from the conventional methods. It makes the pavement act like a
composite monolith. Due to this composite action the neutral axis goes lower in the
pavement and hence reducing the load on the bottom of the UTW layer.
Generally, the critical area for UTW is the edge. But if the neutral axis goes down
enough (due to bonding), corners may become the most critical area. Hence, both
corners and edges are checked in UTW.
Short joint spacing reduces the bending stresses, which implies that the loads are
transferred through displacement of the HMA layer rather than flexural bending of
the UTW.
Structural fibres are used in UTW to produce a certain strength in a limited amount
of thickness. These can either be macro fibres (0.2mm-0.8mm) which are made of
steel or synthetic plastic, or micro fibres (<0.2mm) which are generally made from
polypropylene, polyolefin or carbon.
Surface is so prepared that it is whitish in colour. Hence it reflects sunlight rather than
absorb it like the bituminous overlays, which helps in reducing the overall stresses
and thereby increasing its life.

Advantages of Ultra-Thin Whitetopping

UTW provides a higher structural capacity with a relatively smaller thickness, due to
bonding and use of structural fibres.
Rutting doesnt take place in UTW. Even if it does in lower layers, concrete can
handle flexural load.
Low maintenance is required for the UTW.

UTW can even be placed on a pavement in a poor condition, since very less pre
overlay repair is needed.
We can choose to maintain the surface grade as it was before by milling off the
existing HMA layer accordingly.
We can maintain the traffic during construction on the existing surface since it only
takes up to 24 hrs. Also, there will be no or very less rain delay for the same reason.

Safer and Sustainable

Due to its white colour, visibility is heightened during night time, which makes it
safer to drive at night.
Also, due to increased visibility and a properly prepared surface, the stopping
distances also decrease.
UTW needs very less reconstruction of the work zone, which leads to decreased
UTW minimises waste. Most of the existing HMA layer serves as the base for UTW
so there is no need to tear up the whole pavement, which means there is less material
to landfill.
Using UTW minimises the formation of heat islands because of the high albedo of
concrete. Heat islands can be a problem to the human activities and animal habitat.

1. Satish D, Study on Concrete Mix Design for Ultra-Thin Whitetopping, New Horizon
College of Engineering, Bengaluru.
2. Indian Road Congress SP 76 : 2008.
3. Vandenbossche, Julie M, Applications, Design & Construction of & Construction of Ultra
Ultra-thin thin Whitetopping, University of Pittsburgh.
4. Olek and Scott, Evaluation of Performance and Design of Ultra-Thin Whitetopping
Using Large Scale Accelerated Pavement Testing, Purdue University