Getting a solid foundation in their site management expertise, a group of Russell WBHO Building Students enjoyed a recent visit to Hanson’s concrete manufacturing facility at Westhoughton.
The Year 1 and 2 students, accompanied by construction director John Millward, head of environmental Leo Frechou, and senior engineer Ryland Howard, were given an insight into concrete technology and manufacture alongside practical training in a series of quality and testing techniques.
They received a warm welcome from the Hanson team which included regional technical manager Terry Balmer, district sales manager Vernon Nuttall, technical sales advisor Nick Graham, concrete technical Tony Morgan and LEAD apprentice Scott Fairclough who delivered the Health and Safety induction.
Top of the agenda was the new generation of sustainable, environmentally-friendly concrete products with lower levels of embedded CO2 from Hanson, the UK’s largest supplier of low carbon concrete.
John Millward, Russell WBHO construction director, said: “Russell WBHO is on the road to Net Zero and as part of this we will be investigating products which offer better performance. As concrete is one of the worst generators of CO2 emissions in our industry, it’s important that we understand the more environmentally friendly options available.
“It was interesting to see the products Hanson is already offering in this regard and hear about their development strategy for reducing emissions even further in the future.
“The session also shone a light on the misunderstandings which exist about concrete, for example the over emphasis on the use of recycled aggregates, where much more significant CO2 savings can be made with cement replacement products such as Hanson’s EcoPlus range.”
Leo Frechou, Russell WBHO head of environmental, added: “There is a big focus on the use of low carbon materials across the industry. It was interesting to hear the benefits of low carbon concrete, both in terms of sustainability and performance, which mean contractors don’t necessarily need to find alternative materials in order to reduce embodied carbon on a project.”
The visit began with an in-depth presentation by Terry Balmer, Hanson’s regional technical manager, a man who exudes a passion for all things concrete. He explained the cement manufacturing process and the minerals required for its production, then talked the students through the constituent elements used in concrete production. He reminded them that concrete has been used for construction since 6,500BC, with examples from Ancient Rome still standing proud today.
He showcased a number of physical samples of different concrete mix designs including lightweight concrete, high performance concrete used in nuclear and x-ray applications, and coloured concrete.
The presentation concluded with a demonstration of Hanson’s brand new Intelicrete system, a method of live in-situ strength monitoring which is being used as an option against more traditional testing techniques.
The star of the show as undoubtedly concrete technician Tony Morgan who had the students gripped with his every move. He ably demonstrated slump tests, correct production technique for concrete cube manufacture, correct cube storage requirements, and compressive testing.
The students were then invited to get their hands very dirty indeed by having a go themselves under Tony’s watchful eye.
See Building Students Kieran and Megan learn how to do the concrete slump test.
Rylan Howard, Russell WBHO senior engineer, organised the visit. He said: “On-site concrete testing is a vital part of the quality assurance work we do every day, so it is crucial that our Building Students have a good understanding of the processes and tests themselves.
“Even for those who choose a different role than Site Engineering, it is useful to have knowledge of the background and understand the importance of the safety and quality control tests the site teams undertake.
“The Hanson team were brilliant and their presentation really informative. The students enjoyed touring the plant and got a lot out of the tutorials, and we’re already planning a visit to the cement production facility for 2023.”
Russell WBHO Building Student trainees learn mainly on-the-job, with one day a week spent at the University of Salford undertaking a degree in a construction-related subject. During the first two years of the professional apprenticeship they rotate through different departments within the business to gain a broad view of the industry and insight into each of the professional roles available. From Year 3 they specialise in one field and complete their training in that department, working on live projects and supporting the project team.
For more information about the Russell WBHO Building Student programme visit the website.