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Understanding concrete

constituents and EN 206

Owen Brooker
Technical Director

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Indicative Design Process

Step Task Standard
1 Determine design life EN 1990
2 Assess actions EN 1991 (Parts 1 to 10)
3 Assess load arrangements EN 1992-1-1
4 Assess combinations of actions EN 1990
5 Assess durability EN 1992-1-1(BS 8500?)
6 Assess fire resistance EN 1992-1-2
7 Determine cover EN 1992-1-1
8 Analyse structure EN 1992-1-1
9 ULS checks EN 1992-1-1
10 SLS checks EN 1992-1-1
11 Detailing EN 1992-1-1

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What is concrete?

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What materials are used in

1. Cement
2. Water
3. Fine aggregate (sand)
4. Course aggregate

5. Air (not specified!)

6. Entrained air
7. Admixtures
8. Pigments

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Concrete constituents

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• Clearly drinking water is acceptable

• Water from ponds and boreholes can be used provided it
meets the requirements of BS EN 1008
• Water used for cleaning plant, trucks and mixers can also
be recycled – care should be taken to remove any impurities

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• Includes gravels, crushed rock and sands

• Fine aggregate must pass through a 4 mm sieve
• Recycled aggregates can be used
• The usual maximum size for reinforced concrete is 20 mm
• Up to 40 mm aggregate may be used mass concrete – this
can reduce cement content, but will not be available at
every ready-mix plant
• 10 mm aggregate may be used for heavily congested
reinforcement - this will increase cement content and may
not be available at every ready-mix plant

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• Should be sound and hard

• Undesirable materials:
• Lignite
• Coal
• Pyrite
• Sulphate
• Clay
• Should be clean and free from impurities
• Aggregates may contain chlorides – these should be limited
to avoid chloride attack

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Modern concrete rarely contains 100% ‘Ordinary Portland

Cement’ or OPC. It is often used with other cement types:
• Ground granulated blastfurnace slag (ggbs)
• Fly-ash (previously known as pulverised fuel ash (PFA))
• Limestone cements
• Silica fume

Other cements include

• ‘White’ Portland cement
• Sulphate-resisting cements

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Portland Cement

• The designation for Portland cement

is ‘CEM I’ in EN 206
• CEM I is produced at plants
throughout the world, using locally
available raw materials
• There are slight variations between
• Clinker is formed by burning
together limestone and clay in a
rotary kiln
• Clinker and small proportion of
gypsum is ground to a fine
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Portland Cement

• Cements are classed by strength

• All UK CEM I has a strength of 42.5
or 52.5 MPa
• Cements are also classified by their
strength development (R)apid,
(N)ormal or (S)low.
• CEM I in bags is normally 42.5N
• Bulk CEM I is normally 42.5R or 52.5N
• If the clinker is ground finer it produces faster strength gain

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Portland Cement

• Used to achieve high early strength
• High carbon footprint
• Higher strength concrete required for
chloride conditions

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Sulphate-resisting cement

• Sulphates in the ground can attack the concrete

• Traditionally SRPC has been produced using a cement with
C3A content
• SRPC can be specified to BS 4027
• The availability of ggbs and fly-ash provides alternatives to
SRPC that are more widely used today

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‘White’ Portland cement

• Carefully selected raw materials are used

• Purely chalk
• White clay
• Manufactured process minimises contamination
• Should be used special aggregates
• Mixing should take place in clean equipment

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Ground granulated blastfurnace
• Ground granulated blastfurnace slag
is a by-product of the manufacture of
pig iron, used for steel making
• The slag is tapped off and rapidly
cooled to produce granules
• The granules are then ground to a
fine powder
• Pale yellow in colour, giving a paler
• Widely used as a replacement for
Portland cement

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Ground granulated blastfurnace

• Approximately half of all UK ready-
mixed concrete contains ggbs
• When a retarding admixture is used
care is required to get the correct
• The water:cement ratio may be
reduced because it has a smoother
• Generally improves the workability
and the workability is retained for
• Setting times are often increased

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Ground granulated blastfurnace
• The reaction between CEM I and ggbs produces less calcium
hydroxide so the concrete is more chemically stable
• There is a finer pore structure – so the concrete is less
• It has no discernible affect on carbonation
• The fine pore structure means ggbs concrete is more
resistant to chloride diffusion
• Sulphate resistance increases with increased ggbs content
• Greatly reduces the deleterious expansion caused by ASR

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Ground granulated blastfurnace

• Cost effective replacement for Portland cement
• Gives durable concrete in many aggressive conditions
• Lower carbon footprint than Portland cement
• Less heat generated
• Slows strength gain
• Not available from all concrete plants

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Natural pozzolanas

• A siliceous or siliceous & aluminous

• Not a cementitious material on its
• When finely divided and in presence
of water and calcium hydroxide
(lime, produced by hydrating
Portland cement) forms calcium
silicates which is cementitious
• Up to 25% of the hydrated Portland
cement is lime (calcium hydroxide)
but it does not contribute to the
concrete strength

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Natural pozzolanas

• By consuming the excess lime:

• The strength of the concrete is increased
• Its density is increased
• Efflorescence is decreased
• The propensity for alkali-silica reaction is decreased
• Natural pozzalans: volcanic ash, pumicite, opaline shales &
cherts, calcined diatomaceous earth and burnt clay

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Natural pozzolanas

• Cost effective replacement for Portland cement
• Gives durable concrete especially against sulphate attack
• Lower carbon footprint than Portland cement
• Less heat generated
• Easier to place concrete without bleeding and voids
• Slows strength gain
• Not available from all concrete plants

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Fly ash

• Fly ash is by-product from burning

coal at a power station
• It is an artificial pozzolana
• It can be used without further
• It has a smaller particle size than
• Fly ash is dark grey in colour, and
the shade will vary according to the
• Concrete containing fly ash will be a
dark grey

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Fly ash

• Fly ash is available throughout the

• Usually reduces the water content
of concrete
• Usually requires more air-entraining
• Fly ash particles are often spherical
which improves the fluidity of the
• Setting times are increased by 1
(hot day) to 4 (cold day) hours

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Fly ash

• Lower water demand reduces the number of large pores
• Carbonation is generally the same as for a CEM I concrete
• Fly-ash reduces the diffusion rates of chloride ions through
the concrete
• Relatively high combinations of fly-ash provide greater
sulphate resistance
• Fly ash may reduce freeze-thaw resistance
• Fly ash is capable of preventing ASR

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Fly ash

• Cost effective replacement for Portland cement
• Gives durable concrete in chloride conditions
• Lower carbon footprint than Portland cement (but not as
low as ggbs)
• Less heat generated
• Slows strength gain
• Not available from all concrete plants
• Requires more air-entraining agents

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• Carefully selected limestone powder is

• About 110 000 tonnes are used in UK
cementitious industry
• Tends to speed up the hydration process
• Beyond 15% limestone porosity likely to
• Limestone may increase chloride ion
• Limestone can improve sulphate
• Limestone may reduce the freeze-thaw

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• Increased workability for same water/cement ratio
• Reduced bleeding
• Less sensitive to poor curing
• Slightly lower 28-day strength

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Silica Fume

• Silica fume is a by product of producing

silicon metal or ferrosilicon alloys
• Because of its chemical and physical
properties, it is a very reactive pozzolan
• Primarily used for high strength concrete
and SCC
• Used in small quantities
• Usually used for high-strength concrete
and hence used with high-range water
reducing agent.
• Has a very fine particle size and hence
increases water demand
• Mix is very cohesive – often a higher slump
is required to give same workability
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Silica Fume

• Significantly reduces water permeability
• Carbonation is increased
• Chloride ion diffusion is reduced
• Sulphate resistance is improved
• Can be effective in preventing ASR
• Produces durable concrete
• Used for high strength concrete
• Cost
• Curing must be carefully controlled

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Affect of cement on strength

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Affect of cement on striking

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• Normal water-reducing admixtures

• High-range water-reducing admixtures (Super-plasticers)
• Water-resisting admixtures
• Retarding water-reducing admixtures
• Accelerating admixtures

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Normal water-reducing
• Work by reducing inter-particle attraction
• Effectively lubricates the cement paste – hence water
demand is reduced
• Increases the consistance by 50-70 mm
• Reduces water:cement ratio by about 10%

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• Polymers which have a greater effect than normal water-

reducing admixtures
• Less secondary effects
• Consistence is usually 180 mm or more
• Used for self-compacting concrete
• Significantly reduces the water requirements
• Improves the speed and ease of compaction
• Often essential for pumped concrete mix
• Mix design and batching control are important to achieve a
stable and cohesive concrete

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• Formwork may need to be designed for full-hydrostatic

• 1-day strength is usually significantly increased (doubled?)
• Porosity is reduced so concrete is more durable
• Often used for precast concrete

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Air-entraining admixtures

• Either natural resins or synthetic materials

• Entrain a controlled amount of air into the concrete
• The air bubbles should be less than 1 mm and the majority
less than 0.3 mm
• These air bubbles increase the resistance to freeze-thaw
attack, especially in the presence of de-icing salts
• The smaller voids are not filled by water, but when freezing
water expands they allow ice to expand into the voids.
• Upon melting the capillary actions draws the water out
• Air-entrained concrete will have a higher consistence – the
air acts a lubricant
• The air does reduce the concrete strength

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Water-resisting admixtures

• Used to reduce the passage of water through concrete for

example in basements
• Hydrophobic admixtures provide an insoluble hydrophobic
coating to the wall of the capillary voids
• This prevents the surface water being drawn into the
concrete due to surface tension
• May not be so successful under water pressure
• Alternatively capillary blockers can be used based on
polymer emulsions
• These block the capillary pathways to create a barrier

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Retarding water-reducing
• Chemicals used to slow down the initial set time
• They won’t keep the initial consistence
• Useful for preventing cold joints forming

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Accelerating admixtures

• Used to increase the initial rate of chemical reaction

• Used primarily in cold weather

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Why use cement replacements?

WIN – Less CO2 produced

WIN – Often a by-product from another industry; less waste
WIN – Lower cost than Portland cement
WIN – Improved durability
WIN – Less shrinkage
WIN – Smaller cover – less concrete

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What makes a good concrete?

• A cohesive concrete is easier to transport and place and

generally achieved with:
• Increased cement content
• Increased fines
• Smaller fines
• Less water
• Air entrained concrete
• Rounded aggregates

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Introduction to EN 206

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• Eurocodes required common approach to specifying

• EN 206 fulfils this role
• Some countries have additional guidance on specifying
concrete (similar to a National Annex) - BS 8500 is used in
the UK

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EN 206 - Contents

1 Scope
2 Normative references
3 Terms, definitions, symbols and abbreviations
4 Classification
5 Requirements for concrete and methods of verification
6 Specification of concrete
7 Delivery of fresh concrete
8 Conformity control and conformity criteria
9 Production control
10 Evaluation of conformity
11 Designation for designed concrete

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Cement content - mass of cement in a m3 of concrete (kg/m3)

Compressive strength class - classification comprising the type
of concrete, cylinder strength and cube strength
C25/30 LC25/28
Consistence – Replaces “Workability” and specifically refers to
fluidity of the concrete
Conformity – Ensuring that the product meets its specification

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Roles and responsibilities

EN 206-1 has some distinct definitions:

Specifier - person or body establishing the specification for the
fresh and hardened concrete
Producer - person or body producing fresh concrete
User - person or body using fresh concrete in the execution of
a construction or a component

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Strength Classes

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Compressive strength classes

A dual classification system is used.

Concrete density Characteristic strength
C = normal density of 150 mm cubes (in UK
LC = lightweight density also applies to 100 mm

Characteristic strength
of 150 mm diameter by
300 mm cylinders

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Compressive strength classes for

normal and heavy-weight
concrete Table 12 – EN 206
Comp- Min. char. Min. char. Comp- Min. char. Min. char.
ressive cylinder cube ressive cylinder cube
strength strength strength strength strength strength
class fck,cyl fck,cube class fck,cyl fck,cube
N/mm2 N/mm2 N/mm2 N/mm2
C8/10 8 10 C45/55 45 55
C12/15 12 15 C50/60 50 60
C16/20 16 20 C55/67 55 67
C20/25 20 25 C60/75 60 75
C25/30 25 30 C70/85 70 85
C30/37 30 37 C80/95 80 95
C35/45 35 45 C90/105 90 105
C40/50 40 50 C100/115 100 115

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Compressive strength classes for
light-weight concrete Table 13 –
EN 206
Comp- Min. char. Min. char. Comp- Min. char. Min. char.
ressive cylinder cube ressive cylinder cube
strength strength strength strength strength strength
class fck,cyl fck,cube class fck,cyl fck,cube
N/mm2 N/mm2 N/mm2 N/mm2
LC8/9 8 9 LC40/44 40 44
LC12/13 12 13 LC45/50 45 50
LC16/18 16 18 LC50/55 50 55
LC20/22 20 22 LC55/60 55 60
LC25/28 25 28 LC60/66 60 66
LC30/33 30 33 LC70/77 70 77
LC35/38 35 38 LC80/88 80 88

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Cylinder/cube strength

Cube strength

10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50
Cylinder strength
fck,cube = fck/0.8 fck,cube

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Specifying concrete

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Concrete Specification

Three options:
1 Designed Concrete
Concrete for which the required properties and additional
characteristics, if any, are specified to the producer who is
responsible for providing a concrete conforming to the
required properties and additional characteristics
2 Prescribed Concrete
Concrete for which the composition of the concrete and the
constituent materials to be used are specified to the
producer who is responsible for providing concrete with the
specified composition
3 Standardised Prescribed Concrete
Prescribed concrete for which composition is given in a
standard valid in the place of use of the concrete
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Designed concrete

Minimum requirements for the specification:

• requirement to conform to EN 206;
• the compressive strength class;
• exposure class; but see next presentation
• course aggregate sizes: Dupper & Dlower;
• the chloride class
• for lightweight concrete, the density class or target density;
• for heavyweight concrete, the target density;
• the class of consistence or, a target value for consistence.

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Designed concrete

Additional specifications items, if required:

• special types of aggregate (wear or freeze-thaw resistance)
• specific types or categories of aggregates
• Type, function and minimum content of fibres or
performance classes of fibre reinforced concrete
• characteristics to resist freeze-thaw attack, e.g. air content
• requirements for the temperature of the fresh concrete,
• strength development
• heat development during hydration
• retarded stiffening
• resistance to water penetration
• resistance to abrasion
• tensile splitting strength
• Drying shrinkage, creep, modulus of elasticity
• other technical requirements
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Prescribed concrete

• Specifier prescribes exact composition

• Strength of the concrete is not defined
• Data required to link proportions with intended
• More onerous in terms of conformity

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Prescribed concrete

Minimum requirements for the specification:

• requirement to conform to EN 206
• cement type and strength class
• the cement or combination content
• target cement content
• either target w/c ratio or consistence class or target value
• the type and categories of the aggregate and maximum
chloride content of aggregates
• for lightweight or heavyweight concrete, the target density
• course aggregate sizes: Dupper & Dlower and any limitations
for grading category
• Type and quantity of admixtures, additiona or fibres, if nay
• the type and quantity of admixture or addition, if any
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Prescribed concrete

• If admixtures, additions or fibres are used, sources of these

constituents and the cement as a substitute for
characteristics that are not definable by other means

Additional specifications items, if required:

• the sources of some, or all, concrete constituents
• additional requirements for aggregates
• requirements for the temperature of the fresh concrete
• other technical requirements.

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Standardized prescribed
• Traditional method (“1:2:4”)
• Not suitable where strength (≥ C16/20) and/or durability is
of concern

Minimum requirements for the specification:

• requirement to conform to a standard
• the notation of the concrete in that standard

EN 206 does NOT have any standardized prescribed mixes

BS 8500 does have standardized prescribed mixes

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Standardized Prescribed
concrete (BS 8500)
Standardized Strength class that Characteristic compressive
prescribed may be assumed cube strength at 28 days
concrete for structural that may be assumed for
design structural design N/mm2
ST1 C6/8 8
ST2 C8/10 10
ST3 C12/15 15
ST4 C16/20 20
ST5 C20/25 25

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Extract Table 10 – BS 8500

Mix proportions Cl 32.5 cements

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Table 11 – BS 8500
Mix proportions volume batching

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