Dodgy rebar is not as bad as eels

Triple glazed glass, new cladding materials, perfect details, structural gymnastics – these are the things that excite most architects about buildings. And boring old rebar? Rebar that is just putting a bit of oomph in the concrete, but not even enabling an amazing span or incredible thinness? Who cares?

Well actually we all should, because in many buildings (almost all those that use concrete as a structural material) reinforcement is all that stands between us and, at best, failure or, at worst, death. Fortunately we have the government to worry for us (how often can we use that sentence without it being tongue in cheek?). As Construction Enquirer reports the Government has launched tests into widespread imports of Chinese rebar and into the UK testing regime. There are concerns that the imports are not up to standard, and that testing is not picking this up. There is, it seems, no immediate cause for alarm. We don’t need to fear a series of apocalyptic collapses, but this is an essential issue and organisations such as the British Association of Reinforcement (not many knew that existed) are rightly welcoming the enquiry.

There are instances when reinforcement has deviated even more from the norm. A couple of decades ago there was concern about the use of improperly cleaned sea-dredged aggregate being used in reinforced concrete. This is a worry as it will contain salt, which is a marvellous way of ensuring that your reinforcement will rust. In one case – a car park I think – the aggregate seemed to have gone straight from the sea to the concrete mixer. So much so that among other debris, it contained eels. Eel-reinforced concrete is an interesting idea but, not surprisingly, it didn’t catch on. 


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