The changing applications of geofoams

contruction, geofoam
© iStock/Chris Cook

SciTech Europa welcomes Sunil Jha, of Global Market Insights, to discuss the application of geofoams and their projected growth over the next few years.

Geofoam has an unparalleled track record as a cost-effective solution for foundation settlement and difficult embankment stability applications.

Geofoams have already forayed in railway track systems, road and airfield pavements, storage tanks and the sports arena to ward off ground freezing and heaving and in below-ground building segment to lower seasonal heating and cooling requirements. Presently, geofoam is a go-to material for foundation and buildings owing to innate physical properties, value and flexibility it brings.

Ever since coming into fray in the 1950s, EPS geofoam has been highly sought-after in thousands of construction projects globally. Geofoam has simplified the construction process and encouraged builders to undertake projects that require construction on a large scale in a short duration.

EPS geofoam has encouraged engineers, builders, architects and other professionals to concentrate on the major geosynthetic functions. EPS geofoam offers many functions that are rare in other types of geosynthetic materials. EPS geofoam products tend to work innately as a complementary resource, with new synergies propelling end-users towards results with exceptional flexibility.

Moreover, EPS geofoam products help absorb and lower the influence of naturally occurring forces such as earthquake and gravity. Accordingly, EPS can be produced with higher densities to attain lower deformation and higher R-values meant for insulation purposes.

Permeation of geofoam in road embankments

Significance of using geofoam as a filler material in embankment is that it promotes clean construction adjacent to waterways and lowers construction labour. Further, road embankments lead to minimal future maintenance and lower traffic impact.

When it comes to abutment backfill or retaining wall, placing geofoam behind below-grade walls and retaining structures can enhance waterproofing, reduce settlements, lower lateral pressure and offer better insulation. It is widely believed that comparatively high compressibility and low density of geofoam can confine horizontal forces against retaining structures at the time of earthquakes.

Considering pavement insulation, EPS geofoam is being used for airport and highway pavement subgrade insulation to enhance performance and minimise maintenance in areas vulnerable to severe frost. A high-density geofoam tends to act as a buffer between the wall and the earth that can help reduce pressure and distribute the weight of the earth evenly. Geofoam is easy to manage and lightweight, thereby making it an ideal material for building foundational structures and insulation.

At times, EPS geofoam can be produced with higher densities to achieve the higher R-values meant for reducing deformation and achieving higher R-values.

Amid pervasive slope stabilisation, drainage filter gains impetus

Slope stabilisation has become pervasive and has been occurring along embankments and natural slopes. Some of the factors such as slope geometry, ground motion, soil properties and groundwater conditions have repercussion on stability. EPS geofoam’s low density and other material properties have been influential in slope stabilisation. EPS geofoam has stabilised an arduous slope in an environmentally sensitive place of New York state.

That said, geofoam reacts with gasoline and there have been few cases of harmful interaction and chemical spillage with geofoam under service conditions. In addition, geofoam can have tough times due to excessive concentrated loading. Accordingly, offering a drainage filter between natural soils and geofoam fills has gained impetus. There is no denying that enough drainage of groundwater considerably minimises the potential development of lateral hydrostatic pressures.

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