Scientific research work is, from both the substantial and strategic points of view, ZAG’s most important field of activity. It should be emphasized that it is sometimes difficult to draw a line between work that is performed, on the one hand, for the needs of industry, such as studies, tests, measurement programs, inspections, monitoring and analysis of the state of materials or structures, and, on the other hand, research and development activities, since these two different types of work are frequently interconnected. In accordance with its long-term program for the period 2009-2014 ZAG participates in the research program »Building structures and materials« with the support of the infrastructure group »Testing of materials and structures«. ZAG also performs or participates in several projects which are co-financed by ARRS, the Slovenian Research Agency.
Recently ZAG has been at least as successful in competing for funds for research work at the European level than at the national level. It can be expected that, in the future, our work will be closely connected with the international research arena, in particular in the case of projects within the scope of the EU Framework Program, EUREKA and COST, although, due to presence of other competitors, the situation may become more demanding than it has been so far. In the case of most of our activities ZAG cooperates closely with partners in international organizations such as ENBRI (the European Network of Building Research Institutes), FEHRL (the Forum of European National Highway Research Laboratories), ECTP (the European Construction Technology Platform), and E2BA (Energy Building Efficiency).
ZAG is also involved in the performance of a larger number of research projects which are connected with development activities in industry. The formal activities of TIGR, the Competence Centre for Sustainable and Innovative Construction, came to an end at the start of 2014, but our cooperation with other members of the group continues.
Sustainable building and civil engineering is one of the key components of a sustainability-based society. For this reason ZAG’s research is related not only to materials, products, technologies, methodologies and processes within this industry, but also to the efficient use of energy and renewable resources, the use of secondary raw materials (the recycling of industrial, building and communal waste), and the development of carefully considered strategies and concepts for building works.
The safety and durability of structures of course remains one of the key elements of sustainable construction. Buildings and other engineering structures must possess sufficient load-carrying capacity, stability and durability, as well as fire resistance, and must provide protection against noise and thermal loads. They must also, at all stages of their use, be energy-saving and ecologically acceptable. It is important to realize that the renewal of older buildings (including improvements with respect to the requirements in individual fields) is usually more demanding than new construction, since the conditions for implementation, too, are more demanding (structural and spatial limitations, compatibility of used materials). The fields in which additional emphasis is placed are: structures with special requirements (traffic, energy-producing, and the environmental infrastructure), nuclear structures (including the nuclear waste repository), cultural heritage buildings, and life cycle analyses (LCA – Life Cycle Assessments, and LCC – Life Cycle Cost Analyses).
ZAG’s researchers are, in many scientific segments, in contact with the latest research at a world level: earthquake engineering, methodologies for assessing the condition of structures, nano-materials in the construction industry, the immobilization of hazardous waste, the characterization of certain degradation processes, and the renewal of the cultural heritage. In numerous fields we are also at the summit of world technology: the use of recycled materials, methods and materials for the renewal of the traffic infrastructure, methods for assessing and improving the energy efficiency of buildings, methods for assessing and reducing life cycle effects on the environment, and methods for the measurement of mechanical quantities. It can be concluded that in all of the above-mentioned fields a high level of scientific and expert international co-operation has been established, and that the results of our research work are important not only for the narrower field of construction but also for Slovenian industry and science as a whole.