Service Life of Concrete Structures

With the prevalence of reinforced concrete construction in the UAE, the durability of concrete materials has gained significant interest as an important factor in the design and service life of buildings and civil infrastructure. Dr. Elias Saqan, Chair of the Civil Engineering Department, and Dr. Mohamad Nagi, Director of the Infrastructure Sustainability and Assessment Center (ISAC) at AUD have been awarded research funding to conduct experimental and analytical studies on the subject. Through a competitive two-year research grant funded by the Emirates Foundation, Drs. Saqan and Nagi are leading an experimental investigation on the service life of concrete materials in the UAE.


Reinforced concrete is the most widely utilized construction material in the UAE, with highway structures, ports, high-rise buildings, and industrial facilities being built of precast or cast-in-place reinforced concrete. Earlier studies indicate that corrosion of steel reinforcement in concrete leads to fast deterioration of concrete structures, thus, reducing their service life. AUD's researchers have identified the key economic elements related to such corrosion phenomena in the UAE to be 1) repair and maintenance costs, 2) losses associated with the closing of industrial facilities (such as refineries) for repair, 3) short term replacement of structures due to corrosion damage, 4) traffic impact due to road closure for repair and maintenance, 5) safety related impact (e.g. road accidents, sudden failure of structures), and 6) delay in port activities due to maintenance shutdown.


In a large country like the USA, the annual cost of corrosion of civil structures is $276 billion (3.1% of GNP), according to a report by the National Association of Corrosion Engineers (NACE).  Here in the UAE, the environment is one of the most corrosive in the world, as characterized by high temperature, high humidity, and heavily chloride-contaminated soil and ground water.  Therefore, the impact of corrosion on the economy is expected to be more even more significant.  According to a recent estimate, the cost of corrosion in the UAE is at least $13.5 billion per year, which corresponds to 5% of the UAE GNP. This cost is roughly distributed on items such as utilities (25%), transportation (22%), infrastructure  (25%), government (15%) and manufacturing (13%).


According to Dr. Saqan, the objective of the ongoing research study is to assess and optimize the performance of a highly corrosion resistant reinforced concrete product, consisting of high-performance concrete reinforced with corrosion resistance steel.  Such a material will be used to build 100-year maintenance free structures for transportation, infrastructure, and industrial facilities. While the general concept of such technology is already developed, the main purpose of the study is to assess the performance of such product using local materials, tested under UAE simulated environment.  Computer models will be used to assess the service life of such product under local severe exposure conditions.  Recommendations for the performance under UAE environmental conditions will be presented to decision makers in various government agencies.  A final report on the findings will be also issued. The study has already generated significant interest among the professional engineering community in the UAE, with a number of companies offering assistance and data. In addition, the Dubai Municipality has offered a large-scale test site in Jumeirah to conduct a full scale test.

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