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Energy and Buildings 58 (2013) 310318

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Energy and Buildings


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

Thermal evaluation of structural concretes for construction of biodigesters


a, , Esteban Lpez Lpez b ,
Francisco Manuel Dez Ramrez a , Francisco Ballester Munoz
c
Agustn Valcarce Polanco
a
b
c

Department of Transport and technology of Projects and Processes, University of Cantabria, Santander, Cantabria, Spain
Biocantaber S.L., Santa Cruz de Bezana, Cantabria, Spain
Teican Medioambiental S.L., Boo de Pilagos, Cantabria, Spain

a r t i c l e

i n f o

Article history:
Received 2 August 2012
Received in revised form 17 October 2012
Accepted 24 November 2012
Keywords:
Thermal conductivity
Concrete
Lightweight aggregate
Recycled aggregate

a b s t r a c t
The following study consists of the thermal evaluation of the enclosure of a reinforced concrete biodigester, through the theoretical analysis of the inuence of each component of the materials in the whole
mixture, depending on the distinct values of thermal conductivity of the concrete.
To determine this variable in each specic case, a review of the theoretical models developed over the
years by experts in the eld has been made to nd the most suitable model for the case under study.
The effect on the thermal conductivity of the variation in type and proportion of the basic elements
making up the concrete is studied: the aggregate, the cement, the water/cement ratio, the porosity and
the humidity among others, with the aim of providing a tool for estimating the thermal conductivity of
a concrete created with the desired proportions.
This tool is designed in the form of a nomogram for each specic case, in which conventional concrete, concrete with recycled aggregate from construction and demolition waste (CDW) and lightweight
structural concrete are differentiated.
2012 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction
Within the increasingly important setting of energy efciency
and renewable energy, the following study is focused on energy
savings in the generation of biogas, a technology which according
to the Spanish Renewable Energy Plan 20112020, will increase by
more than 50% over the period of the plan [1,2].
To take advantage of energy from biogas generated in anaerobic digesters using cogeneration, the use of internal combustion
engines is currently the most widespread mode for the production
of electricity. These engines provide a moderate electric performance, about 3540% efciency, while the remainder of the energy
is lost, up to 9095% in heat production and 510% in noise generation.
This heat is consumed in the biogas generation process, for heating the digesters. The efcient design of thermal insulation of these
digesters can enable much of this heat to be assigned to processes
other than the generation of biogas, such as drying digestates, or
district heating within the area where heat is supplied to farms,
greenhouses, pools, urban areas, etc.
This study originates from previous research carried out by the
research group entitled Thermal evaluation and optimization for

biogas-producing biodigesters. The possibilities provided by concrete, enable this research line to be continued with the aim of
studying the degree to which the material of the biodigester can
reduce the thermal conductivity of the walls. This lower thermal
conductivity makes the biogas production more energy efcient
and, owing to the lower consumption of the digester, reduces the
amount of CO2 emitted.
2. Determination of the thermal conductivity of concrete
2.1. Initial analysis
Thermal transmittance U (W/m2 K) is dened as the amount of
energy passing through a specic surface area in a time unit. It is
given by the following expression [3]:
U=

0378-7788/$ see front matter 2012 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.enbuild.2012.11.036

(1)

where RT is the total thermal resistance of the construction component (m2 K/W).
In the same way, the thermal resistance of a homogeneous thermal layer is dened by the expression [3]:
R=

Corresponding author.

E-mail address: francisco.ballester@unican.es (F.B. Munoz).

1
RT

e


(2)

where e is the thickness of the layer (m),  is the thermal conductivity of the material of the layer (W/m K).

F.M. Dez Ramrez et al. / Energy and Buildings 58 (2013) 310318

311

Fig. 1. Cubic model for calculating thermal conductivity H of concrete, developed


by Valore, as a function of the conductivities p and a of the cement paste and
aggregate, and the fraction Va of the volume of aggregate. ACI 122R-02 [12].

The coefcient of thermal conductivity  of dry concrete has


a value between 0.09 and 2.30 W/m K, basically depending on the
type of aggregate, its composition and its air content. Nevertheless,
the presence of humidity is a determinant factor in the nal thermal
resistance of the material [4].
While values of thermal conductivity of concrete are reported in
the different norms, the variation of the components in the mixture
in the concrete leads to different values and trends, which are difcult to obtain if the calculations are not performed experimentally.

Fig. 2. Comparison between the results obtained through the application of Valores
Cubic Model [1012] and the experimental results obtained by Kim et al. dry conditions [13]. Polynomial extrapolations in both cases.

2.2. Review of theoretical models


Due to the lack of tests in this study, the most important theoretical models within the subject area were reviewed in order to
determine which one ts the case studies with greatest precision.
Thus, several models were considered, such as the one proposed
by Campbell-Allen and Thorne (1963) [5], whose fundamental characteristics are based on the decomposition of concrete in its phases;
the model known as the Effective Medium Approximation (EMA),
with application to porous media, which is applied to concrete in
various studies [6], such as Hamilton and Crosser, cited in Refs.
[68]; and the advanced models proposed by Zimmerman (1989)
[9], Verma et al. (1991), Tavman (1996), Bouguerra (1998) and
Jagjiwanram (2004), which as well as taking into account porosity,
introduce the shape, size, angularity, etc. of the pores [6].
However, due in part to the difculty associated with estimating
certain variables in the absence of experimental measurements,
and partly to the good results obtained, for the development of
this study, another model, based on the analysis of the thermal
conductivity of concrete as a two-phase system, is used. It is named
the cubic model [10].
The model can be used to calculate the conductivity of concrete
H depending on the conductivity of the cement paste P , the conductivity of the aggregate a and its volume Va . As shown in Fig. 1,
the model consists of a cubic unit of volume of aggregate enclosed
in a layer of cement with a thickness of (1(Va )1/3 )/2 [1012]:
(2/3)

H = P [Va

(2/3)

+ 1 Va

(2/3)

/(Va

(2/3)

Va + (Va /((a Va

/P )

)))]

Fig. 3. Comparison between the results obtained using the correction applied by
Valore to his Cubic Model [1012] and the experimental results obtained by Kim et
al. wet conditions [13]. Polynomial extrapolations in both cases.

thermal conductivities assumed for the cement paste and


limestone aggregate are 0.77 W/m K and 2.91 W/m K [13].
These conditions are interpreted using Valores Cubic Model and
the experimental and theoretical cases are reected in Table 1 and
Table 2, both in dry and in wet state [1012].
It can be observed that in both cases, values obtained for
the thermal conductivity of concrete using Valores Cubic Model
are very close to those obtained through experimental studies
(Figs. 2 and 3).
3. Thermal analysis of conventional and non-conventional
concretes
3.1. Conventional concrete
Variations in type and volume of aggregate are one of the most
important aspects to evaluate the thermal conductivity of concrete.

(3)

2.3. Suitability of the model for the case under study


In the experimental study of Kim et al. [13], an equation was
developed based on the seven parameters with greatest effect on
the thermal conductivities of concrete, mortar and cement paste
(age, volume of aggregate, water/cement ratio, type of additives,
ne aggregate fraction, temperature and humidity conditions) [6].
Some of the results obtained were used to conrm that the theoretical model proposed by Valore is suitable for the case under study.
This study uses a cement paste with a specic weight of
3.15 kg/dm3 , specic surface of 321 m2 /kg, a water/cement ratio
of 0.4 and characteristic compressive strength of 36 MPa. The

Fig. 4. Thermal conductivity of cement paste depending on its porosity. Matiasovsky


and Koronthalyova [15]. Potentially extrapolated trendline.

312

F.M. Dez Ramrez et al. / Energy and Buildings 58 (2013) 310318

Fig. 5. Thermal conductivity for distinct percentages of lightweight coarse aggregate.

Fig. 7. Thermal conductivity of concrete with different percentages of aggregate


from construction and demolition waste. Polynomial extrapolations.

The values contained in the Catalogue of ConstructiveElements


of theSpanish Technical Building Code (Cdigo Tcnico de la Edicacin, CTE) [14] will be taken into account, where 2 W/m K is
considered to be a suitable value for a hard/very hard limestone
(Table 3).
Thus, the thermal conductivity of aggregate largely determines
the quality of thermal insulation of concrete. According to Valore,
using quartzite aggregate instead of limestone aggregate [14] can
produce a concrete with a 50% higher values of thermal conductivity.
Cement paste also plays a relevant role in determining the
thermal conductivity of the mixture, so that w/c ratio has an outstanding inuence in this aspect.
An increase in the w/c ratio leads to a rise of the volume of the
micropores in the cement paste [6]. The higher porosity results in
a decrease of the thermal conductivity of the mixture, due to the
higher volume of air.
Correlations between w/c ratio and hydration of the cement
paste have been studied, providing the porosity values.

Fig. 6. Visual separation by components of recycled aggregate (percentages by


weight). Obtained from the inspection and extraction of the components of the
samples of 250 g of recycled aggregate.
Extracted from Ref. [18].

Table 1
Thermal conductivity values obtained by Kim et al. [13] for given conditions of w/c ratio, ne aggregate/total aggregate proportion and aggregate volume.
w/c (%)

Fine/total volume aggregate (%)

Aggregate volume

40
40
40
40
40
40
40

39
39
39
39
39
39
39

0.70
0.63
0.56
0.49
0.35
0.21
0.00

Thermal conductivity (W/m K) 20 C


Concrete (wet)

Concrete (dry)

2.46
2.33
2.24
1.96
1.71
1.39
1.16

1.96
1.94
1.77
1.53
1.28
1.00
0.77

Table 2
Thermal conductivity values obtained by applying the Cubic Model proposed by Valore [1012]. Values from the study of Kim et al. [13] have been taken account.
Aggregate volume

0.80
0.75
0.70
0.65
0.60
0.55
0.50
0.45
0.40
0.35
0.30
0.25
0.20

Thermal conductivity (W/m K)


Aggregate (limestone)

Cement paste

Concrete (dry)

Concrete (wet)

2.91

0.77

2.23
2.10
1.97
1.86
1.75
1.65
1.56
1.47
1.38
1.30
1.22
1.15
1.08

2.79
2.63
2.46
2.32
2.19
2.06
1.95
1.84
1.72
1.63
1.53
1.44
1.35

F.M. Dez Ramrez et al. / Energy and Buildings 58 (2013) 310318

313

Fig. 8. Nomogram for conventional concrete, based on the recommendations of the ACI Norm 211.1-91 [19].

Matiasovsky and Koronthalyova [15,16] also provides a direct


relationship between total porosity and thermal conductivity of
cement mortars and cement pastes (in dry conditions):
=

1
(2 /0.063)

(4)

Table 3
Thermal conductivity values of different aggregate type CTE [14].
Type of aggregate

Thermal conductivity
(W/m K)

Limestone
Siliceous
Granite
Sandstone
Basalt
Quartzite

2.0
2.6
2.8
3.0
3.5
4.0

where, is the thermal conductivity (W/m K),  is the total porosity


of the concrete (m3 /m3 ).
Values obtained from the graph are better suited to cement
pastes and aerated concretes, where porosity is a determining factor of their main features (Fig. 4).
However, in order to determine the thermal conductivity of
cement paste in function of w/c ratio, the study of Kim et al. [13]
has been taken into account in this study. Results can be observed
in Table 4.
The previously used value of 0.77 W/mK was determined
according to this study, and correspond to the w/c value of 0.4 in
dry conditions, as shown in Table 4.
3.2. Lightweight structural concrete
The Spanish Structural Concrete Regulation (Instruccin de
Hormign Estructural, EHE) considers structural lightweight

314

F.M. Dez Ramrez et al. / Energy and Buildings 58 (2013) 310318

Fig. 9. Nomogram for recycled concrete.

concrete (SLC) to be concrete with a closed structure and a bulk dry


density of between 1.2 kg/dm3 and 2 kg/dm3 , with a proportion of
lightweight aggregate, either natural or articial, excluding in this
category other lightweight concretes, such as cellular concrete and
concrete without nes [17].
Within this type of aggregate, the features of expanded clay
and expanded shale stand out structurally. These are the most
widely used lightweight aggregates, achieving with them concrete
densities between 0.6 and 1.9 kg/dm3 , with strengths of between
12 N/mm2 and 25 N/mm2 [4].
According to the Constructive Elements Catalogue of the CTE
[14], the characteristic thermal conductivity of expanded clay
varies between 0.148 and 0.095 W/m K, a very much lower value
than that of limestone, producing concretes with very high thermal
resistance.
In the graph of Fig. 5 developed using Valores Cubic Model
[10,11] (for a concrete with a soft consistency, a maximum aggregate size of 12.7 mm, a w/c ratio of 0.4, a cement content of
482.5 kg/m3 , with a 65% by volume of aggregate, of which 54%
is coarse aggregate, and 46% is ne aggregate), the variation of
the thermal conductivity, as the proportion of coarse lightweight
aggregate is modied, can be observed.

Table 4
Effects of the w/c ratio on the thermal conductivity of cement pastes, Kim et al. [13].
Extrapolation from 0.4 to 0.6 w/c ratio has been made.
w/c (%)

25
30
35
40
45
50
55
60

Thermal conductivity (W/m K) 20 C


Cement paste (wet)
20 C

Cement paste (dry)


20 C

1.26
1.22
1.20
1.16
1.13
1.10
1.07
1.03

0.98
0.96
0.86
0.77
0.71
0.64
0.56
0.49

Table 5
Dosage per m3 for different percentages of recycled aggregate in a H25 concrete
[18].
Components

0%

20%

50%

100%

Cement (kg)
Water (kg)
Sand (kg)
Gravel coarse (kg)
Gravel medium size (kg)
Recycled gravel (kg)
w/c
Paste/aggregate

275
178.75
843.01
751.96
225.91
0
0.65
0.36

275
178.75
877.77
564.69
169.65
183.58
0.65
0.36

275
178.75
848.6
349.67
105.05
454.72
0.65
0.36

275
178.75
868.15
0
0
830.11
0.65
0.36

3.3. Recycled concrete


EHE 08 [17] describes recycled concrete, as concrete made with
recycled coarse aggregate, obtained from the crushing of concrete
waste.
Thus, it is logical to think the recycled aggregate from construction and demolition waste would display lower values of thermal
conductivity mainly due to the presence of an aggregate with a
lower density and thermal conductivity than the natural aggregate,
but also due to higher porosity.
Based on visual separation carried out in the Faculty of Civil Engineering of the University of Cantabria in the Integral construction
waste assessment plan [18], typical percentages of composition of
a recycled concrete are provided (Fig. 6).
Table 6
Dosage per m3 for different percentages of recycled aggregate in a H40 concrete
[18].
Components

0%

20%

50%

100%

Cement (kg)
Water (kg)
Sand (kg)
Gravel coarse (kg)
Gravel medium size (kg)
Recycled gravel (kg)
w/c
Paste/aggregate

380
190
713.9
882.2
121.59
0
0.50
0.45

380
190
744.45
665.28
91.69
189.24
0.50
0.45

380
190
709.54
414.06
57.07
471.12
0.50
0.45

380
190
714.56
0
0
874.04
0.50
0.45

F.M. Dez Ramrez et al. / Energy and Buildings 58 (2013) 310318

315

Fig. 10. Nomogram for lightweight concrete (sand lightweight).

This separation is essential to establish how each component affects the total composition, and elucidate a mean
thermal conductivity, which is valid to be assigned in the
study.
In this study, dosages are established for two types of concrete
(H25 and H40), according to the CEDEX indications, varying the
proportion of coarse aggregate and recycled aggregate from 0 to
100%, as shown in Table 5 and Table 6.

These dosages are used in order to analyze the thermal behavior


of the mixture. It is known that the dry density of the recycled
concrete under study is 2.185 kg/m3 .
An interpolation trough the different percentages in the recycled
aggregate has been made in order to obtain the average value of its
thermal conductivity (Table 7). It is necessary to know the percentages of volume of each component to estimate their importance in
the aggregate.

Table 7
Main characteristics of recycled aggregate [18].
Material

Density (kg/m3 )

Thermal conductivity (W/m K)

Percentage (weight)

Percentage (volume)

Mortar
Gravel
Brick
Asphalt
Gypsum

1900
2450
2300
2100
750

1.4
2.00
0.85
0.70
0.30

52
44
1.50
1.50
0.70

57.45
37.70
1.37
1.50
1.97

316

F.M. Dez Ramrez et al. / Energy and Buildings 58 (2013) 310318

Fig. 11. Nomogram for lightweight concrete (all lightweight).

The average thermal conductivity of recycled aggregate can be


estimated from the following equation:
recycled =

(1 V1 + 2 V2 + + n Vn )
(V1 + V2 + + Vn )

thermal conductivity, which in turn is more inuenced by the percentage of recycled aggregate present.

(5)

where,  is the thermal conductivity of each aggregate (W/m K), V


is the total volume of each aggregate (m3 /m3 ).
The different percentages of aggregate, the content of cement
and the w/c ratio of each concrete, along with the average thermal conductivity of the recycled aggregate, 1.58 W/m K, allowed
the chart from Fig. 7 to be elaborated for the two specic cases
mentioned [18].
A decrease in thermal conductivity of the mixture can be
observed as the proportion of recycled aggregate increases.
The difference between the two concretes is basically due to
a greater proportion of cement paste, with a lower thermal conductivity, which implies a lower aggregate content, with a higher

4. Results
As a result of the investigation, a set of nomograms have been
developed to facilitate the choice of components and their proportions in the concrete, in order to obtain the best use of energy. As
was mentioned, the variation of a single component within the
material, not only affects the complete mixture, but also directly
alters the other components, making it difcult to assess the effect
of variation of each element independently.
These nomograms provide a complete picture of each individual
case, enabling the engineer in a simple way to observe the effect
of changes in the proportions and type of each component on the
concretes thermal conductivity (Figs. 811).

F.M. Dez Ramrez et al. / Energy and Buildings 58 (2013) 310318


Table 8
Strength of concrete in terms of w/c ratio and percentage of recycled aggregate.
w/c ratio

0.35
0.40
0.45
0.50
0.55
0.60
0.65
0.70

Strength of concrete (Mpa)


0% recycled
aggregate

2050% recycled
aggregate

100% recycled
aggregate

59.00
50.00
43.00
37.50
33.00
29.25
26.00
23.25

54.88
46.51
40.00
34.88
30.70
27.21
24.19
21.63

51.30
43.48
37.39
32.61
28.70
25.43
22.61
20.22

4.1. Conventional concrete

317

consistency and specic air content, instead of the use of the w/c
ratio [23].
Ranges of values are determined that reect the results found in
dozens of tests, rstly, for a concrete in which the thick aggregate
is substituted (sand lightweight), and secondly for a complete
substitution of the aggregate (all lightweight).
For the case dealt with in the guides, a conductivity of cement
paste of 0.7 W/m K is assumed, with a coarse aggregate/ne aggregate ratio of 1.5/1. Natural limestone aggregate was used, with a
thermal conductivity of 2 W/m K, and expanded clay as a structural
lightweight aggregate, with a thermal conductivity of 0.12 W/m K,
obtained as the mean of the range of values contained in the Catalogue of construction components of the CTE [14].
5. Discussion

The guide consists in the graphic interpretation of the recommendations of the American Concrete Institute (ACI) in its
document Standard Practice for Selecting Proportions for Normal,
Heavyweight, and Mass Concrete (ACI 211.1-91) [19].
The cement content for each water/cement ratio is determined
and then, assuming a constant thermal conductivity in the cement
paste of 0.7 W/m K, and depending on the type of aggregate considered [20], the thermal conductivity of the dry concrete is obtained.
The damp state, according to Valore [1012], would require multiplying the latter value by 1.25.
4.2. Recycled concrete with aggregate from construction and
demolition waste
To plot the strength versus w/c ratio curves, the recommendations followed in Ref. [21] are taken into account. The study assumes
a concrete made with CEM-I-42.5 R cement, silica sand, crushedlimestone coarse aggregate, the same maximum size of 20 mm and
recycled aggregate with 31% presence of adhered mortar with a
density of 1.74 kg/dm3 .
The De La Pena formulation, related to the percentage of w/c
and the characteristic strength of concrete control was chosen. For
the different proportions, reduction coefcients listed in Ref. [21]
are assumed (Table 8).
Due to the many variables which affect the thermal conductivity
of concrete, it is necessary to x some of them, while taking into
account that their ideal proportions vary as ratios are varied. In this
way, the thermal conductivity of the cement paste is assumed to
be constant with a value of 0.7 W/m K, and the cement content is
given in Table 9:
Thermal conductivity of recycled aggregate and limestone
aggregate is assumed to be 1.58 W/m K and 2 W/m K respectively.
Thermal conductivity of the mixture is reduced as the recycled
aggregate is more important within the amount of aggregate. The
proportion coarse aggregate/ne aggregate has been always constant with a value of 1.50.
4.3. Lightweight structural concrete
Both graphs are based on the study developed to compile the
Standard Practice for Selecting Proportions for lightweight concrete (ACI 211.2-98) [20,22]. The strength of lightweight structural
concrete is generally related to the content of cement for a specic

Nomograms are based on contrasted models and relationships,


so that the results of their use are similar to the values of thermal
conductivity observed in the literature.
Although, the studies consulted about recycled concrete do not
cover aspects such as its thermal behavior, which is an important
aspect to consider in the future for this type of concrete. Moreover, studies about thermal conductivity in structural lightweight
concrete are more frequent.
Thus, in the study of Wang and Tsai [24], several types of
lightweight concrete have been analyzed, formed from three different particle density of sintered dredged silt. They use three different
w/c ratios, 0.39, 0.48 and 0.69, with a constant amount of water,
150 kg/m3 , and the ratio lightweight coarse aggregate/natural ne
aggregate remains constant between 55/45 and 60/40, so that the
use of the sand lightweight concrete nomogram is justied.
The results differ slightly, given that the values of thermal
conductivity obtained in [24] range between 0.55 W/m K and
0.7 W/m K, while the nomogram gives a value of 0.7 W/m K.
On the other hand, lightweight concretes with expanded perlite have been analyzed in the study of Sengul et al. [25]. They
use cement contents of around 300 kg/m3 and w/c ratios of 0.55.
The study conrms that the reduction in thermal conductivity of
concrete when replacing 80% of its aggregate by light aggregate is
65%.
When comparing this case with the nomograms, in rst place, a
conventional concrete with a thermal conductivity of 1.5 W/m K
is obtained (300 kg/m3 cement, w/c 0.55 and water content of
165 kg/m3 ). With the same composition, substituting 80% of the
aggregate in the all lightweight nomogram, a value of thermal conductivity of 0.5 W/m K is obtained, which is similar to the
value obtained by reducing 65% of the initial thermal conductivity
(0.525 W/m K).
Also, concretes of higher thermal resistance can be analyzed.
In the study of Mohammad Al-Baijat [26], it is not specied the
concrete composition, but nevertheless they obtain two different
values of thermal conductivity, in the rst case using limestone
aggregate and basalt aggregate for the second case. The results are
values of 1.75 W/m K and 2.3 W/m K respectively.
If a concrete with a value of thermal conductivity of 1.75 W/m K
is obtained using limestone aggregate when conventional concrete nomogram is used, and all the proportions of the mixture
remains constant, it is observed that the replacement of this aggregate by basalt, provides a concrete with a thermal conductivity of
2.4 W/m K.

Table 9
Content of cement for each percentage of recycled aggregate.

6. Conclusions

Content of cement for the distinct types of substitution (kg/m3 )


0%
300

20%
350

50%
375

100%
400

The design of a biogas digester using a reinforced concrete wall


provides some advantages which derive from the versatility of

318

F.M. Dez Ramrez et al. / Energy and Buildings 58 (2013) 310318

the material. Concrete is a material composed of abundant, cheap


materials, with good ever-increasing, mechanical strength and low
energy consumption [4].
In the study, the variation in volume and type of aggregate,
water/cement ratio, humidity and porosity, etc. enable concretes to
be obtained with different thermal properties, without undergoing
substantial changes in composition.
The use of recycled concrete with aggregate from construction and demolition waste, mechanically proven through numerous
trials over the years, provides concrete with a better energy performance, which added to the substantial reduction in the impact on
the environment and its cost, makes this material a good alternative
to consider in designing biodigesters.
Finally, structural lightweight concrete, which increases the
strength/weight ratio, which is low in conventional concrete, provides the greatest savings in energy consumption of all cases
studied. It has been demonstrated that a mixture with good
mechanical performance can still provide good thermal behaviour.
Although in this case, the cost of the concrete is increased, its
evaluation value is subject to the benet contributed by the signicant savings in energy consumption that this type of concrete
provides.
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