A KEANE EYE: The path less travelled

Governments will need to continue providing services, and astute private parties will look for value in opportunities passed up by others who have lost their nerve. However, anyone looking to buy should use a sharp pencil and look for cost effectiveness. Providing footpaths (and to a lesser extent cycleways) is a core activity of councils. Personal observation would tell most people that it can also be an expensive one. With low ground moisture and tree roots close to the surface, many footpaths require regular rebuilding if the council is to avoid litigation when people trip. Given the kilometres of path built and maintained across Australia each year, coming up with a solution to just one of these areas of concern could save a substantial amount of money. So it’s lucky Jean Monger of Sydney-based company Global Equipment Manufacturing seems to have found an answer to most of the problems mentioned, and others besides. First – the slow speed of construction and labour-intensive nature of the work. Even if you’re not on a scale to use the Fast-Lane concrete paver he has built, the finishing of paths laid using conventional boxing and laying can be sped up by using a hand tool known as the Spinner. This Spinner rides the formwork and quickly distributes the concrete, providing an even finish without requiring concreters to bend over to screed the concrete. Trials have shown that using this can allow up to five times the volume of concrete to be laid and finished, compared to traditional methods. Secondly, the maintenance issue. Monger has exclusive NSW, ACT and Queensland agency for an Australian product called Tripstop, which is embedded in the concrete and has been proven to stop displacement of slabs relative to one another, eliminating the trip hazard. Monger calculated that for a 3m wide cycle path he can provide Tripstop free of charge and still viably put the concrete on the ground for $20 a cubic metre less than with conventional methods. That sounds like something worth putting to the test, but there are further products in the wings that can sweeten the picture even further. A newly developed binder developed in conjunction with another company does away with the need for Portland cement and is claimed to be able to withstand 50-megapascals downward pressure within 24 hours of being layed – apparently the biggest problem initially was ensuring that it did not “go off” too quickly. Monger has been an advocate of porous pavements for a long time, and has developed a pavement that incorporates over 85% of post-consumer waste and has fine pores that allow water to penetrate but exclude dirt and trash. This pavement has the dual benefits of eliminating the standing water hazard and allowing stormwater to be absorbed into the soil rather than transported through the stormwater system. In many ways, the picture seems too good to be true, but trials with two councils have substantiated Monger’s figures, and the benefits seem attractive enough for others to seek to replicate them.

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