South African research institute the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) aims to endorse new technological directions in the asphalt sector and to promote alignment with international pavement technology trends at this year’s Conference on Asphalt Pavements for Southern Africa (Capsa), which will take place from August 16 to 19 at Sun City, in the North West.
“We aim to improve the international competi-tiveness of the sector, while supporting improved efficiency and cost effectiveness in terms of service delivery, as well as to promote greater environmental consciousness,” says CSIR Built Environment competence area manager of transport infrastructure engineering Benoit Verhaeghe.
The CSIR will present technical papers at Capsa on most aspects of flexible pavement technology, including innovation, performance-related material specifications and design methods, as well as the impact of traffic on the performance of assets. The CSIR will also present the results of in-field performance assessments on innovative technologies.
Verhaeghe tells Engineering News that the CSIR’s contribution to Capsa will include, but is not limited to, a discussion about the industry’s transition from the empirical determination of binder properties to a performance-based classification system for South African binders, and its move towards a performance-related asphalt mix design system.
The institute will also discuss the implementation of technologies for long-life pavements using high-modulus asphalt materials, citing as case studies mentioned in CSIR papers the pavement applied on the M7, South Coast road, the Durban bus rapid transport routes and the N3, all in KwaZulu-Natal; the R104, in Gauteng; and the N1 in the Western Cape.
The CSIR’s contribution to the development of the new South African Roads Design System – a South African National Roads Agency Limited-led initiative, will also be highlighted.
“The purpose of our contribution to the industry is to find or produce fit-for-purpose material selection and design methods to reduce under- and over-design and, therefore, to reduce the waste of scarce resources,” says Verhaeghe.
He further highlights that the CSIR’s role in the asphalt industry is to provide technological assistance for road owners to quantitatively and qualitatively improve their service delivery, accelerate socioeconomic development, and support and empower the private sector to implement more cost-effective, innovative pavement engineering solutions in terms of design and delivery.
“This is our mandate, and it should also be government’s, as a sound road and railway net- work is an essential ingredient for a country’s economic and social development and wellbeing,” Verhaeghe argues.
He cites classic economic theory, which sug- gests that productive infrastructure, inclu- ding transport assets, is one of several key precon- ditions for national economic growth.
The theory advocates that, by investing in assets, such as roads and railways, a nation can structure development by reducing transport and com-munications costs, thereby facilitating additional trade and wealth creation.
“Indeed, transport is generally regarded as an engine of growth and a guarantor of national integration, locally and in the external global economy,” he affirms.
Despite advancing many new technologies and systems that are more cost effective, quality-focused and service-delivery driven, the inability of the public sector to implement and procure new technologies is severely impacting on the road construction industry, says Verhaeghe.
“The significant decline in the year-to-year share value of construction companies, as well as the latest status quo reports of the South African Forum of Civil Engineering Contractors (SAFCEC) and the South African Council for Educators (SACE) all portray the same image,” he says, citing industry analyst Industry Insights CEO Elsie Snyman’s reviews on the short- to medium-term prospects for the South African civil construction and engineering industry.
Industry Insights reviewed the prospects for SAFCEC and SACE at the last Road Pavements Forum meeting in May.
“One needs to question why private industry should improve its delivery methods through self-inflicted tightening of delivery standards and specifications, if there is little to no return on investment,” concludes Verhaeghe.