Why Use Fiberglass Composites (FRPs) to Build Foundations?
Composites, and more specifically fibre-reinforced polymers or FRPs (which is what our panels are) are becoming more and more popular within the aerospace, marine, automotive, and construction industries. And for good reason. FRPs are extremely durable, strong, corrosion resistant, and reliable building materials that prevent the growth of mold, and they do not rust or corrode.
FRPs are commonly used in harsh and corrosive environments like chemical processing plants, power plants, sewers, wastewater piping, and acid storage tanks. In fact, they are used in mineral piping systems to protect the pipes from “hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, phosphoric acid, chlorine gas (wet and dry), chlorine dioxide, sodium hydroxide, sodium hypochlorite, solvent extraction solutions, brines, slurries, and more” (source). Basically, FRPs are used in the most extreme and demanding environments to help protect against the most toxic materials.
They are also used to make boat hulls, bulkheads, and other components for military, commercial and recreational boats, ships, and superyachts. Jets, like the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, are comprised of almost 50% composites.
In construction, FRPs are used for beams, columns, bridge decks, seawalls, piles, piers, and cladding for roofs and walls. They are even used to strengthen and reinforce old concrete structures, and new ones, to extend the lifespan by 50+ years. The list of uses and applications of this remarkable material is growing.
The reason FRPs are so popular, is because they have these defining characteristics (source):
- Highly Corrosion Resistant
- High Durability
- High Flexibility
- High Impact Resistance
- High Strength-to-Weight Ratio
- High Thermal Stability
- Low Maintenance
- Long Lasting and Sustainable
These are all MAJOR benefits when it comes to building a foundation for a home or structure. The corrosion resistance decreases the wear and tear of the foundation, leading to fewer cracks, leaks, and repairs. The durability of the panels, perhaps the hallmark trait, increases the panels ability to withstand wear and tear, daily pressure, and common damages. FRP’s even have a higher strength-to-weight ratio of steel! They are ten times stronger than steel alloy and 2-3 times stronger than reinforced steel.
FRPs have an exceptionally high strength-to-weight ratio compared to reinforced concrete as well. In fact, when a study was done by the ICC on the soil load resistance of our panels compared to concrete, it showed that our panels were more than 2x stronger!
3rd Party Testing: Soil Load Resistance
The third party testing done demonstrates the durability of the panels, their flexibility, and the extremely high strength-to-weight ratio. To prove the strength of the panels, we conducted an experiment to put them to the test. We cut sections of the panel and had them elevated off the ground and then drove a 10,000 lb flatbed truck on top of the panel sections.
We Placed a Flatbed Truck On Top of Our Panels
As you can see, the panel holds up extremely well and the deflection is minimal. This demonstrates the incredible strength of the panels, and their ability to withstand lateral soil bearing pressure.
Additionally, FRPs are much easier to transport, maneuver, and install. This means they can be shipped just about anywhere, on a flatbed truck, and installed with ease. This reduces the transportation costs, labor costs to install, and significantly reduces the time needed to install leading to a much more efficient construction process.
FRPs are also a long lasting material that do not corrode or deteriorate overtime. FRPs are a high-quality and high-performance plastic. Compared to concrete, the long-term maintenance of FRPs is much lower, which makes them a much more sustainable and greener building material.
Concrete doesn’t last forever – it can start breaking down in as few as 50 years or less and needs continual maintenance and care to retain its durability. In fact, a lot of times concrete is reinforced with FRPs once it starts to corrode because FRPs help concrete maintain it’s structural integrity.
Even steel, which is what rebar is made of, corrodes and breaks down. That is why FRP rebar is growing in popularity especially in states where there is a lot of rain and water, like Florida. This simple demonstration below shows the stark difference between FRP and steel. Both FRP and steel rebar were placed in a vase of water. Look at the difference between the 2 vases after 52 hours.
FRP Rebar vs. Steel Rebar
In just 52 hours steel is corroding and the water is already murky from the deterioration of the steel. This is what happens to foundations once water creates cracks in the concrete. The steel corrodes, leading to a severely diminished foundation that is not as strong or dependable, that needs to be reinforced. This can be extremely costly to fix and repair.
Overall, FRPs have become the go-to building material in many industries due to their reliability, durability, strength, corrosion resistance, and longevity. The demand is growing as organizations such as the Florida Department of Transportation adopt them for a wide variety of applications.