Story & photos by Rizal Raoul Reyes
THE construction industry in the Philippines is going to experience a revolutionary development according to Stärken Philippines Inc. President Samuel Luison.
In a product launch event held recently, Luison and the team of Stärken Philippines introduced the autoclaved aerated concrete (AAC). “This is the revolutionary product that will change how we build houses and high-rise structures in the country,” Luison said in his opening remarks.
Luison disclosed that his group compared AAC to the hollow blocks that are traditionally used in the country’s construction industry. “We saw the ease of use, positive and overwhelming characteristics of AAC,” he pointed out.
Developed by the Swedish architect and inventor Dr. Johan Axel Eriksson in the 1920s, AAC became popular in Europe and started production in the Swedish city of Yxhult.
Components used in building an AAC are slurry mix containing cement, sand and lime and aerating agent. The slurry is emptied and shaped to form lightweight blocks, panels and lintels, which are treated in autoclave.
“The high-pressure steam-curing mechanism in autoclave facilities are the curing process of the molded lightweight concrete, producing physically and chemically stable products that weigh one-fifth of the normal concrete product,” according to the product manual of Stärken.
In his presentation, Chua Swee Hock, Starken AAC Malaysia general manager, international business division, AAC is an environmental-friendly product that will replace the ubiquitous hollow blocks in the construction industry in the future.
He said AAC can be used in residential projects, condominiums, low-rise housing projects, commercial buildings, factories and restaurants. He also outlined several advantages of the AAC that can provide good news to the construction industry in the country.
“It can help reduce 30 percent of environmental waste, decrease 50 percent of greenhouse radiation and over 60 percent integrated energy on the surface of brick.”
Chua said AAC is also fire-resistant—citing it more superior than traditional products up to four hours with a nominal block thickness of 100 millimeters.
In terms of impact resistance, Chua pointed out that a wall installed using a 100-mm Stärken AAC is categorized as “severe duty” grade and is capable of enduring impact loads.
Installing Stärken AAC is just a walk in the park so to speak, according to Chua. He said it can be easily sawn, cut-carved, drilled and nailed using ordinary tools. “We can teach people how to do it the right way,” he said.
In an interview on the sidelines of the launch, Luison told the press that Stärken Philippines, so far, has not yet been talking with property builders and construction companies because they want to market it on gradual basis on the initial marketing phase by introducing the product to its close friends. “If it encounters unexpected issues that are unique to the country, they can be addressed immediately,” Luison explained.
“We will start with the smaller projects. We already started in Ayala Heights,” he added.
Stärken Philippines also conducted a training in its office by building a 4-meter high wall to test the product.
Luison said the entry of Stärken is a perfect timing to capitalize on the country’s continued property boom, as markets outside the Philippines are experiencing an economic slowdown. “Suddenly, Starken has excess capacity that can be shipped to countries, such as the Philippines,” he pointed out.
Luison said officials of the Stärken’s head office in Malaysia said they were surprised that AAC has no presence in the Philippines.
He said the company is also open to explore opportunities in government projects, as the Duterte administration wants to jump-start the economy by embarking on a massive spending in infrastructure.
He said the Stärken Malaysia is also considering to put up a manufacturing plant in the short term.
“It depends if the market picks up. Once we have the volume, we can put the plant. It becomes more practical to put the plant here once the demand gets up.”
Luison said installation of AAC will require a higher notch of skills pointing out that it is different from laying tiles. He said people engaged in installing AAC have similar skill sets of a mason.
He urged the construction industry to give a serious look at AAC, because it is cost effective for mass housing, faster turnaround in the construction of malls and cleaner for the environment because of lesser sand needed.
Luison said it is still early to set a sales target. “We are bit conservative now. Once we have the numbers, we can set a target.”