The Program Group
ZAG’s research work is oriented towards certain fields which are of key importance for the development and implementation of building materials and structures, and for sustainable construction as a whole. In order to be able to achieve these aims most effectively, work in these fields is interconnected and mutually beneficial, so that through close co-operation between individual groups of researchers it is possible to achieve a synergistic effect of research in narrower fields. To make this clearer these activities are presented separately.
Safety and stability of structures
Numerous research projects are carried out whose results form the basis for the evaluation of individual project parameters and for the computational modelling of seismic response. Based on the results of new analyses the user-friendly computer program for the verification of the seismic resistance of masonry buildings has been upgraded. In the field of timber structures, research was performed mainly into the seismic resistance of prefabricated framed systems. The above-mentioned research was performed within the scope of several Slovenian and international projects in co-operation with partners from industry. Special mention should be made of the projects: Seismic Risk in Slovenia (POTROG) and Earth and Concrete Water Retaining Structures of Strategic Significance (VODPREG), which were ordered by the Ministry of Defence. A larger-scale study was also carried out with regard to the behaviour of construction products and building elements in an actual fire. The course of fire in buildings (simulation of the development of smoke and heat in fire sectors) is modelled, and analyses of the response of load-bearing structures during fire are performed.
Durability of structures
Within the framework of numerous EU projects (CERTAIN, ARCHES, SPENS, TRIMM, SmartRail, BridgeMon, ASCAM) materials, technologies and methodologies for assessing engineering structures are researched and developed, as well as methods for their renewal. Together with scientific institutes and industrial partners we aimed, through TIGR, the Competence Centre for Sustainable and Innovative Construction, at the optimization of concepts, materials and details for the greater durability of buildings, including the reduction of effects on the environment. LCA (Life Cycle Assessments) and LCC (Life Cycle Cost Analyses) were introduced in the case of the majority of these research projects, using innovative technological solutions.
Energy efficiency of structures, and the appropriate use of new materials and technologies
ZAG’s researchers have actively participated in the reduction of emissions and effects on the environment in the building sector. Most of this research work has been joined together into EU and industrial projects, and the TIGR Competence Centre. In the case of the project GE2O clustering was investigated, and the use of this concept for work performed in the EU. Within the project HEAT4U ZAG co-operated in the development of a gas absorption heat pump (GAHP) for use in individual houses. In the project BRIMEE, possible applications of bio-thermal insulation were investigated. The demonstration pilot establishment of a new concept for solar heating and cooling, which was performed within the scope of the project Cost-Effective, includes new conceptual-technological possibilities for the transformation of renewable sources of energy (solar energy), and is the first of its kind in Europe.
Characterization of degradation processes and methods for their prevention
The complex degradation processes which occur in natural and artificial stone, cement-based materials and ceramics, asphalts and polymers, as well as various metals and alloys are studied. Apart from combinations of environmental effects and different types of mechanical loadings, ZAG’s researchers have also been involved in the methodologies and materials which can be used for their prevention. The majority of these activities were performed in co-operation with highly recognized international and Slovenian scientific institutes. The relevance of the results obtained by our research is proved by numerous publications in academic journals with significant impact factors, and by awards made at conferences.
Development and use of new materials – use of new methods, including nano-technologies
In the construction industry there have recently been ever-increasing needs for high-quality materials, which have special mechanical or chemical properties: high strength and toughness, and exceptionally high chemical resistance. Although, in its research work, the Program Group was not in charge of the basic development of new materials, ZAG’s researchers were particularly involved in the implementing of knowledge and experience from other fundamental fields of research. Within the scope of various EU and Slovenian projects our research was oriented mainly towards the development of new cement-based materials (UHPFRC: Ultra High Performance Fibre Reinforced Concrete), the use of polymeric nano-composite materials (coatings/impregnation agents, thermally/acoustically insulating materials) and phase-change materials (thermal self-preserving elements), the protection and strengthening of timber structures, and the development of replacement historic materials. The results of research work in all of these fields have been published in numerous scientific and technical papers, and some technologies have also been patented.
The use of and immobilization of waste and secondary raw materials
Building and civil engineering is an ideal field for the use of different types of waste as good-quality alternative materials, mainly for two reasons: in this field it is possible to make use of very large quantities of these; and by using different binders and procedures their toxic components can be immobilized. ZAG’s researchers have, in several EU and Slovenian projects, been mainly involved in the use of reclaimed asphalt, black and white steelmaking slag, and the development of green concretes with the use of various types of industrial waste (these can partly replace cement, and partly natural aggregate). Important research has also been performed with regard to the remediation of polluted water and soils. Numerous papers have been published in scientific and technical journals, and some patents have been applied for.
Particular attention has, in close association with the above-mentioned fields, been paid to research in the fields of building structures with special requirements: the traffic infrastructure (road and railway), energy-producing plants, waste disposal areas (including the repository for nuclear waste), and buildings belonging to the cultural heritage.