PCL Achieves New Operational Efficiencies With SmartRock2™ Concrete Maturity Meters

Established in 1906, PCL carries out work in civil infrastructure, heavy industrial, and buildings markets across Canada, the United States, the Caribbean, and Australia. With over 4,400 employees and an annual construction volume over $8 billion, PCL is the largest contracting organization in Canada and one of the largest in North America.

Embracing innovation is at the heart of the company's strategy for business success. "We're always looking at new methods that will save us time, and our clients' money, on projects while differentiating us from other contractors," says PCL Field Coordinator, April Smith.

Challenge: A Time-Crunched Construction Schedule

An aggressive construction schedule on a 55-storey building in Edmonton motivated the operations group to look for an alternative to time-consuming in-situ testing of concrete strength that uses field-cured samples. "We were faced with an aggressive schedule that required our operations team to be working on weekends," says Smith.

Concrete testing is a very time-consuming process that adds up exponentially when working on large, multi-floor buildings.
—Shawn Kitt, Superintendent

The concrete-testing process involves a lab tester going to the area where concrete is being poured, casting cylinders, and storing them near where the concrete has been poured. Once hardened, cylinders are collected by the tester and taken to a lab where they're tested for specified strength or to verify mixture proportions for strength. If cylinders are inadvertently damaged on-route to the lab or strength results are low, the entire procedure must be repeated.

Smith also notes that by the time you get lab results from the first cylinder break, you could already have met strength without knowing it. "You still need to wait another 3-hours or more before getting lab confirmation," she says. "Although that might not sound like much, saving 3-hours on every cycle of a 55-storey building adds up quickly."

Solution: Wireless Concrete Sensors Meet Mobile Apps

In a quest to introduce time- and money-saving efficiencies, the Edmonton team looked at several technologies before deciding to test SmartRock from Giatec. "SmartRock was the only solution that met our evaluation criteria," says Smith.

Specifically, the PCL team was looking for a non-destructive solution that gave multiple people access to a continuous flow of information. "It [SmartRock] seemed like the only option at a price point that would work effectively for our scale of operation," she says.

The Edmonton team started with the first release of SmartRock before transitioning to SmartRock2, a cloud-based system that was available early in the project. "I'm definitely sold on the cloud-based release," confirms Smith. She adds: "It's a much better system and easier to share information throughout the project like we need to do."

Concrete Maturity Meter Next to SmartRock2 App

The SmartRock mobile app is used to manage projects and concrete mix calibrations.

SmartRock2™ uses wireless technology to provide real-time temperature and maturity information on poured concrete. The solution uses rugged waterproof sensors which are placed in the concrete formwork prior to pouring. A SmartRock2 app delivers temperature and the resulting concrete strength in real time to users' mobile devices.

Implementing SmartRock2™ Is Easy

  1. Label sensor to indicate its location in the field and in the app.
  2. Install sensor by attaching it to the rebar.
  3. Pour concrete as usual.
  4. Start viewing concrete temperature and strength results on the mobile app.

Putting Information in the Hands of the Contractor

In addition to reducing or eliminating the need for a third-party testing agency, the technology empowers jobsite personnel. "With SmartRock, the people on the jobsite get the information directly," says Kitt. "It really gives you control without requiring someone [a lab tester] to give you a strength estimation."

Contractor Checks Concrete Strength on Smartphone

PCL contractor monitors concrete strength wirelessly from a smartphone

Kitt illustrates how SmartRock2 introduces important efficiencies and savings. If a slab is poured on a Friday, with the intention of stripping it on Saturday, he says the traditional process [using in-situ testing and field cures] incurs a significant human cost with a minimum of three people being involved: a PCL Foreman to let someone from the testing lab onto the jobsite, and someone at the lab to break the cylinder and perform the test on the collected samples. "With that approach, you’re completely dependent on the lab for the information you need, and their availability," says Kitt.

Dramatic Time Savings

Fastforward to the introduction of SmartRock2, and the approach is dramatically streamlined. "If a job is poured on Friday, my foreman looks at the screen on Saturday morning, and sends me a text message to say the strength is good and we can strip the formwork," says Kitt. "We've eliminated the need to coordinate with three people to get the information needed; you get results instantly, and it saves so much time." Kitt also points out that results can be checked anytime at no cost and there is no destruction involved.

By the time you get lab results from the first cylinder break, you could already have met strength without knowing it.
—April Smith, Field Coordinator

SmartRock2 also obviates other site issues that can affect the field cure method. In some instances, when a job has piles or drilled shafts for foundation work, it can be challenging to get the test cylinder located in the exact same conditions as the pile. "When you cap a small cylinder of concrete and put it under a tarp, it's not getting the same heat generated as the pile," says Kitt. This can lead to low strength results from field cures and delays. "This would be another good application for SmartRock2," he says.

Other Benefits of SmartRock Maturity Meters

  • Eliminated the need for third-party lab testing;
  • Gave control of information to field crew on jobsite;
  • Allowed personnel to check results anytime without incurring additional costs or destruction; and
  • No need to do repair work following destructive testing.

On the heels of this successful test project, PCL has shared the benefits of using SmartRock2 across the company's operational units. Kitt shares the opinion that there are advantages to using SmartRock2 anywhere the company is pouring concrete and the field crew need to know early concrete strength. "For me personally, the next project I go to, whether it's a bridge, a low-rise construction, or a high-rise building, if I'm pouring concrete, I'm going to seriously think about using this technology rather than field cures – just because I have seen the advantages first hand," he says.

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