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Construction and Building Materials 36 (2012) 566571

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Construction and Building Materials

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

Properties of partition wall blocks prepared with fresh concrete wastes

Shi-cong Kou, Bao-jian Zhan, Chi-sun Poon
Department of Civil and Structural Engineering, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong

a r t i c l e

i n f o

Article history:
Received 25 November 2010
Received in revised form 16 August 2011
Accepted 16 August 2011
Available online 6 July 2012
Fresh concrete waste
Partition wall block
Hardened properties
Fire resistance
Elevated temperatures

a b s t r a c t
The research was conducted to explore the feasible use of fresh concrete waste (FCW) for the manufacturing of partition wall blocks. The FCW sourced from a ready mix concrete plant was crushed into the
size of ne aggregate (<5 mm), and used to replace natural sand at the proportions of 0%, 25%, 50%,
75% and 100% by weight with an aggregate/cement ratio of 12, for producing partition blocks. The properties of the blocks, such as density, water absorption, compressive and transverse strengths, and drying
shrinkage as well as the loss of strength, mass and ultrasonic pulse velocity after exposure to elevated
temperatures (300 C, 500 C and 800 C) were determined. The results indicate that as FCW content
increased in the blocks, the water absorption increased and density decreased due to the high porosity
of FCW. But the incorporation of FCW aggregates improved the mechanical properties (compressive
strength and transverse strength) of the partition blocks. However it weakened the re endurance of
the blocks. The results of the study have demonstrated that it is feasible to utilize the FCW in the production of non load-bearing concrete products, such as partition blocks.
2011 Published by Elsevier Ltd.

1. Introduction
Currently in Hong Kong, fresh concrete wastes (FCW) generated
from concrete batching plants are normally delivered to landlls
for disposal. Compared with the long established recycling methods
for other construction and demolition (C&D) wastes, this approach
of managing FCW is not environmentally friendly especially given
the fact that Hong Kong is facing an acute problem of shortage of
landll space. As such, it is a necessary to explore alternative means
for processing and recycling FCW.
Over the past few decades, there have been a number of research
studies and practical projects for reuse and recycling of C&D waste
[17]. However, only few studies on reuse and recycling of FCW as
building materials have been reported [8]. Especially no work has
been published on possible reuse of FCW as constituent materials
for partition blocks production. A previous study conducted by the
authors showed the feasibility of reusing FCW as substitutions of
natural coarse aggregate in non-structural concrete production
and it is known that FCW worsened the properties of the new concrete due to its poorer quality (highly porous, high water absorption,
etc.). Authors recently study indicated that the concrete made with
FCW aggregate had lower mechanical and durability properties. The
utilization of FCW reduced the density, and increased the water
absorption of the hardened concrete. But with no more than 30%
replacement of granite by FCW aggregate and with a W/C of 0.35,
it is still possible to produce concrete with a target 28-day
Corresponding author. Fax: +852 2334 6389.
E-mail address: cecspoon@poplyu.edu.hk (C.-s. Poon).
0950-0618/$ - see front matter 2011 Published by Elsevier Ltd.

compressive strength of 40 MPa [9]. Obviously, the possibility of utilizing FCW in new concrete production is quite limited.
Recycled ne aggregate have been successfully demonstrated to
be able to produce concrete blocks by using a compression molding
method [1013]. Using such a method, the constituent materials
would be molded under a compacting load together with a vibration action [10]. Only a minimal amount of water is needed to
make the mixture uid enough to be fed into the molding machine
[14]. The results show that mechanical and durability properties of
blocks comply with the relevant specications [15]. Naik et al. have
also established that high volumes of y ash, bottom ash, and used
foundry sand can be used for the manufacturing of precast molded
concrete blocks [16].
Also, as it is possible that many building materials would be exposed to elevated temperature conditions (such as during an accidental re condition), the re resistance of the materials, both for
load bearing and non-load bearing uses needs to be assessed
The objectives of this study are to investigate the effect of the
incorporation of FCW on the properties of partition wall blocks
and how would the properties change under elevated

2. Experimental details
2.1. Materials
2.1.1. Cement
ASTM Type I cement was used and the chemical composition and physical properties of the cement are shown in Table 1.


S.-c. Kou et al. / Construction and Building Materials 36 (2012) 566571

Table 1
Chemical composition and physical properties of cement.









Specic gravity
3.16 g/cm

Specic surface area

352 m2/kg

was lled, a compressive force at a rate of 600 kN/min was applied for about 50 s to
mechanically compact the mix within the mould. The excess materials were then
removed with a trowel. The fabricated blocks, in the steel moulds, were covered
by a plastic sheet and left at room temperature and relative humidity of about
75%. The blocks were then de-molded, 1 day after casting, and were cured (covered
by a hemp bag to maintain a RH of over 90%) at room temperature (23 C) until
2.4. Testing methods

Fig. 1. Particle size distributions of ne aggregates.

2.1.2. Natural aggregates

In this work, natural river sand and crushed granite (with maximum size of
10 mm) were used as ne and coarse aggregates, respectively. The particle size distribution of the river sand was determined according to BS 882 [17], and the results
are shown in Fig. 1. The physical properties of the river sand and crushed granite are
shown in Table 2.
2.1.3. Fresh concrete waste aggregates
The FCW used was sourced from the residue fresh concrete recycling system of
a local batching plant. The over-ordered fresh concrete and cementitious slurries
derived from equipment-cleaning of the plants were processed by the re-claimer
(Fig. 2). The natural coarse and ne aggregates in the waste were recycled, but
the slurry containing cement powder was processed by a combination of sedimentation, dewatering by lter pressing and air-drying. The FCW was eventually
formed in pellets composed mostly of unhydrated cement and water (Fig. 3).
After delivered to the laboratory, the FCW were crushed and sieved manually, to
produce recycled materials with different particle sizes. The particle size distribution was determined according to BS 882 [17], and the grading curves are shown
in Fig. 1. Furthermore, the saturated-surface drying density (SSD) and the water
absorption value of the FCW were determined according to BS 812 [18], and the results are tabulated in Table 2.

2.4.1. Physical properties

The density of blocks was determined at the age of 28 days, in accordance with
BS EN 12390-7 [19]. Although BS 6073-2 [20] does not impose a specic limit on
water absorption value on partition blocks units, the water absorption values of
the blocks produced were determined at 28-day and were expressed as a ratio of
the mass of the absorbed water of an immersed specimen to the oven dried mass
of the specimen. The absorbed water was measured after immersing the block specimens in water at room temperature for 24 h.
As the velocity of an ultrasonic pulse wave passing through the material can be
used to evaluate the quality and uniformity of the blocks, direct UPV measurement
was taken for each specimen before the testing of the mechanical properties, in
accordance with BS 12504-4 [21].
Additionally, the drying shrinkage values were also determined at the curing
age 1, 3, 7, 14, 28 and 90 days according to BS 6073-1 [22].
2.4.2. Mechanical properties
According to BS 6073-1, the determination of compressive strength of the partition blocks was carried out at the curing age of 3, 7, and 28 days, while the transverse strength was determined at the curing age of 28 days by using a Testometric
Machine (Fig. 4).
2.4.3. Exposure to elevated temperatures
After 28 days of curing, the specimens were placed in an electrical oven, and
heated up to 105 C for 24 h. Then the temperature in the oven was increased at
the rate of 5 C per minute to the target values of 300 C, 500 C and 800 C respectively. After reaching the respective target temperatures, the temperatures were
kept at the target values for 4 h. Then the specimens were allowed to cool down
to room temperature naturally before testing of mass loss, UPV and mechanical
properties were conducted.

3. Results and discussion

2.2. Mixes proportions

3.1. Density and water absorption

For studying the effect of FCW aggregate on the properties of partition blocks, a
total of ve mixtures were designed with FCW replacing river sand at 0%, 25%, 50%,
75% and 100%, respectively with an aggregates to cement ratio (by weight) of 12.
The details of the mix proportions are given in Table 3.

The results of density and water absorption of all the blocks are
listed in Table 4. The presented results are the average of three
measurements. As expected, the density decreased and water
absorption values increased with increasing FCW content. This
was primarily due to FCW had a lower specic gravity than natural
river sand.

2.3. Fabrication of partition blocks

The blocks were fabricated in steel moulds with internal dimensions of
200  100  60 mm for mechanical properties and re resistance evaluation. The
steel moulds with internal dimensions of 225 mm  105 mm  75 mm were also
used to fabricate the specimens for the determination of drying shrinkage. The mass
of the mixed materials used for lling each mould was approximately 2.9 kg, and
the amount decreased gradually as the content of FCW aggregates increased, due
to the lower density of FCW. The materials were put into the moulds in three layers
of approximately equal depth. After each of the rst two layers was lled, compaction was applied manually using a hammer and a wooden stem. After the third layer

3.2. Mechanical properties

Fig. 5 shows the compressive strength of all the blocks at varying curing ages. It can be seen that all of the blocks, even for those
made with 100% FCW aggregate, met the compressive strength
requirement of BS 6073-1 (>7.0 MPa) [22]. Before 28 days, all of

Table 2
Properties of aggregates.

River sand
Fresh concrete waste
Crushed granite

SSD density (kg/m3)

Water absorption (%)

Fineness modulus





S.-c. Kou et al. / Construction and Building Materials 36 (2012) 566571

Fig. 2. Fresh concrete waste re-claimer at batching plant.

Fig. 3. Dewatered fresh concrete waste.

Fig. 4. Set up of transverse strength test.

the blocks incorporating FCW as ne aggregate exhibited higher

compressive strength than the control mixture (RF-00) due to the
FCW aggregate contained unreacted cement. Blocks produced with
RF-50 showed the highest compressive strength due to the ller effect of FCW which had more nd powder compared with natural
river sand (see Fig. 1). This is consisted with the results of Zego

and Maio [23], and Evangelista and de Brito [24] who conclude that
the compressive strength is not affected by the utilization of recycled ne aggregate up to 30%, although the splitting tensile
strength and static modulus decrease as the recycled aggregate
content increases.

Table 3
Mix proportions of blocks (by weight, kg).
Mix notation


Aggregates to cement ratio






Natural aggregates

FCW aggregates

10 mm granite

River sand




S.-c. Kou et al. / Construction and Building Materials 36 (2012) 566571

The transverse strength of all the blocks at the curing ages of

28 days is shown in Fig. 6. The presented values are far higher than
the prescribed minimum transverse strength (P0.65 MPa) for partition blocks [22]. Also, the transverse strength of the partition
blocks increased with the increase of FCW aggregate content. The
results are similar to our previous ndings [25,26]. This is due to
the transverse strength of cement based materials is affected by
the interfacial transition zone (ITZ), and the use of FCW aggregates
improved the ITZ between the cement paste and the ne aggregate.
This may be attributed to: rstly, compared with the natural sand,
FCW aggregate had higher water absorption values, which reduced
the internal bleed water signicantly and the ITZ became more
compact; and secondly, the surface of the FCW aggregate was
rougher which made the bond strength higher [27]. This is consisted with the results of Tam et al. [28] who reported that recycled
aggregate improved the ITZ between the cement paste and


Fig. 5. Development of compressive strength of blocks.

3.3. Drying shrinkage

The trends of drying shrinkage of all the specimens are shown
in Fig. 7, where the positive values mean the expansion of the
blocks, and the negative values mean shrinkage. It can be seen that
drying shrinkage of all the specimens increased with the curing age
due to loss of free water of the blocks which had been saturated
with water before testing. However, the shrinkage values of all
specimens still met the requirement (<0.06%) of BS 6073-1 at the
test age of 14 days [22]. The ultimate drying shrinkage of the
blocks increased with the increasing content of FCW aggregate in
the blocks due to the high water absorption values of FCW aggregates and higher total cement content (residual unhydrated/hydrated cement particles in FCW ne aggregate + new cement
particles used in mixtures), or lower natural aggregate content at
higher FCW contents [3032].

Fig. 6. 28th day transverse strength of the blocks.

3.4. Exposure to elevated temperature

3.4.1. Weight changes of blocks
The residual mass of the blocks after exposure to the elevated
temperatures are presented in Fig. 8. It can be seen that the control
blocks (RF-00) had the minimum mass loss, while the blocks prepared with more FCW aggregates had higher mass loss. This might
be contributed to more cement paste of FCW aggregate. After heating to 800 C, the percentage of residue mass of RF-100 was only
83.5%, (compared with the control block: 98.7%). This might be because when more FCW aggregate was used, more bonded water
was removed from the hydrated calcium silicate hydrates. Moreover, as FCW also contained a signicant quantity of calcium
hydroxide and calcium silicate hydrates (product of cement hydration), which would be decomposed by the elevated temperature.
Fig. 7. Development of drying shrinkage of blocks.

3.4.2. Effect of temperature on compressive strength

Fig. 9 shows the residual compressive strength dened as a ratio
of the compressive strength of the blocks after exposure to different temperature (fc(T)) to the compressive strength of corresponding blocks at 25 C (fc(25)). It can be seen that the compressive
Table 4
Density and water absorption of blocks.
Mix notation

SSD density (kg/m3)

Water absorption (%)




strength of all the blocks was increased by exposure to 300 C. This

might be because when the temperature rose, the cement hydration was accelerated. After exposure to 500 C, the compressive
strength of control blocks was still slightly increased due to accelerated the cement hydration. However, the compressive strength
of all the blocks prepared with FCW aggregate decreased, and the
reduction in strength increased with an increase in FCW aggregate
content. After exposure to 800 C, the compressive strength of the
blocks incorporating FCW was signicantly decreased. The block
RF-100 with 100% FCW aggregate had the lowest residual compressive strength. This might be due to the decomposition of the
calcium hydroxide and calcium silicate hydrates present in the
FCW aggregate at the high temperature [28,29,33].


S.-c. Kou et al. / Construction and Building Materials 36 (2012) 566571

3.4.3. Effect of temperature on transverse strength

Fig. 10 shows the residual transverse strength dened as a ratio
of the transverse strength of the blocks after exposure to different
temperature (ft(T)) to the strength of the corresponding blocks at
25 C (ft(25)). A sharp decrease in transverse strength was obtained
for all the blocks with the increase of temperature. At 300 C, the
transverse strength of the control blocks was only 84%, and for
the RF-25, RF-50, RF-75 and RF-100 blocks, the residual strength
was 67%, 52%, 38% and 35%, respectively. After exposure to
800 C, all the blocks lost more than 90% of their original transverse
strength. Besides, the results show the higher % reduction increased with FCW content. When compared with the compressive
strength test results, the effect of elevated temperature on the
transverse strength was more signicant. This might due to the
decomposition of the calcium hydroxide and CSH, and the bond
strength between FCW aggregate and cement paste was signicantly decreased after exposure to higher temperature especially
after exposure to 800 C.

Fig. 9. Residual compressive strength of blocks after exposure to different


3.4.4. Effect of temperature on ultrasonic pulse velocity

Fig. 11 shows the effect of the high temperature on the UPV of
the blocks. The data shows there were signicant reduction in UPV
with increase in temperature. The control blocks had the lowest
UPV loss. The reduction in UPV was associated with a combination
of the effects such as drying, internal cracking as well as the
changes in microstructure which means the decomposition of CH
and CSH of the paste in the blocks, caused by the heating process
[34]. This is consisted with the results of Handoo et al. [35] who
conducted that UPV decreases rapidly due to the sharp deterioration in microstructure of the paste in red concrete.
4. Conclusion
Based on the results of the experimental investigation, the following conclusions can be drawn:
(1) With the increase of FCW aggregates content, the water
absorption values of the partition blocks increased and the
density at saturated-surface-dried condition decreased.
(2) With the same aggregate/cement ratio, the compressive
strength of the partition wall blocks prepared with FCW
aggregates was higher than the corresponding blocks with
natural river sand, and both met the minimum requirements
of BS 6073-1.
(3) Generally, the drying shrinkage values of the partition blocks
at 28-day increased with the increase in FCW content. The
drying shrinkage values of the partition blocks could meet
the requirement of BS 6073-1.

Fig. 10. Residual transverse strength of blocks after exposure to different


Fig. 11. Residual ultrasonic pulse velocity of blocks after exposure to different

Fig. 8. Residual mass of blocks after exposure to different temperatures.

(4) After exposure to elevated temperatures, the loss of mass,

compressive strength, transverse strength and UPV of the
partition blocks decreased with the FCW aggregates content.
(5) The results obtained from this study indicate that it is feasible to reuse FCW aggregates for the production of partition

S.-c. Kou et al. / Construction and Building Materials 36 (2012) 566571

The authors wish to thank the nancial support of SHK Properties Ltd. and the Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
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