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Formwork and falsework for heavy construction

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The  realization  process  of  civil  engineering  structures  is  complicated:  a  wide  variety  of disciplines  is  involved,  each  with  a  specific  contribution,  and  each  involved  somewhere between initial concept and completion. It is a challenge to structure the process in such a way that a balanced and optimized participation of the many disciplines involved is achieved.

 One of  the  critical  success  factors  is  knowledge  management:  each  discipline  should  bring professional knowledge, but disciplines should interact effectively at interfaces as well. And that  is  where  the  gap  in  practice  often  appears.  Temporary  structures  for  civil  engineering projects are an example of this phenomenon; they are right in the middle of a complex system of  interactions:  between structural  engineering,  site  engineering,  work  preparation, procurement,  and  execution.  They  have  a  significant  impact  on  cost,  construction  time, construction  methodology  and  through-life  performance  of  the  actual,  permanent  structure.

 Formwork and falsework are among the most important elements of temporary structures for civil  engineering  projects.  And  so  is  the  interaction  with  the  many  disciplines  mentioned before. Knowledge management with respect to formwork and falsework requires engineers to shareknowledge and experience in the broadest sense. As actual performance of formwork and  falsework  can  only  be  noted  at  a  late  stage  in  the  realization  process  when  some disciplines  (although  in  strong  interaction  with  formwork  and  falsework)  are  no  longer present,  the  learning  circle  can  only  be  closed  by  feedback. 

 And  that  is  where  also  a  gap appears in practice: as experienced site managers generally know what kind of problems they will face and how to solve them and most site engineers have their lessons learned, it is not common  to  prepare  documents  which  address  practical  construction  issues  in  relation  to design and application of formwork and falsework, although these documents are a vital link in  the  learning  cycle.  Moreover  it  is  not  common  to  include  the  participation  of  technical commissions and/or scientific associations in these issues This fib bulletin intends to feedback effectively state of the art knowledge and experience with  regard  to  formwork  and  falsework.  As  such  it  hopes  to  bridge  the  gap  that  often  is experienced in practice and to make a larger group of engineers familiar with the important issues  related  to  design  and  application  of  formwork  and  falsework. 

 This  should  lead  to  a better  interaction  between  engineering  disciplines  involved,  resulting  in  safe,  effective  and efficient temporary structures. Although commonly applied definitions for formwork and falsework have been used, the authors are aware of the fact that in practice a clear distinction between both elements (form and support) may be difficult as both functions are sometimes integrated. This document addresses some fundamental issues related to formwork and falsework:

 •  The appearance of the finished concrete which is closely related with the quality of the formwork. Owners/clients tend to be more demanding in this respect. 

•  The performance of the finished concrete in related to durability and as part of Life Cycle Management.  A  stronger  focus  on  reliability  of  (life  cycle)  performance  is  noticeable (performance-based building, integrated contracts, through life analysis, etc.). 

•  The  need  to  support  the  concrete  while  it  acquires  enough  strength  and  stiffness  to support  itself.  In  this  context  the  most  important  issue  is  structural  safety. 

 Around  the world,  serious  accidents  of  important  civil  structures  and  buildings  under  construction happened with catastrophic consequences caused by temporary work failure. Accidents during construction are too frequent and society does not accept that exposure anymore. Unfortunately there is a lack of documentation about these events.

This  bulletin  gives  guidance  for  the  design  and  use  of  formwork  and  falsework  on construction sites. These guidelines are based on the experience of site and design engineers; and most of the advice has beengiven as a  consequence of real problems in the past. Any warnings  based  solely  on  theoretical  judgement  have  been  avoided;  only  recommendations based on experience have been included

. This  bulletin  focuses  on  principles  only  and  as  such  does  not  address detailed  design issues, as local design codes should be applied. As construction habits and details sometimes differ from country to country, some advice or recommendations included in this document may be affected by local circumstances. 

This Guide to Good Practice represents a summary of the relevant knowledge available to and possessed by the members of Task Group 10.2, and other contributors as listed. The draft report  has  been  discussed  and  approved  by  Commission  10  and  subsequently  released  for approval by the Technical Council of fib. Formal approval by the Technical Council of fib was given in May 2008.

 I  would  like  to  thank  all  the  members  of  Task  Group  10.2  and  Commission  10,  all  the individual  contributors  from  outside  Commission  10,  and  the  reviewers  of  the  Technical Council of fib for their contribution to this Guide to Good Practice. In particular, I would like to thank José Emilio Herrero Beneítez, who, apart from his own contribution, did the editorial work for this bulletin.