56th BetonTage: the precast industry summit

From 7 to 9 February 2012, over 1,800 participants from 20 countries attended the 56th BetonTage congress held at the Edwin-Scharff-Haus Congress Center in Neu-Ulm. Under the heading of ‘Shaping Change’, the leading forum of the European precast industry offered a high-profile technical program, renowned speakers and a fully booked exhibition. In addition, the congress provided many opportunities to exchange views and to establish and strengthen industry contacts.  

In his opening speech, Harald Sommer, President of the Baden-Württemberg Association of Concrete and Precast Plants (FBF), considered the event a ‘bracket’, a cornerstone of the industry. According to him, the BetonTage congress provided not only comprehensive continuing training but also an important communication and presentation platform for the industry and its market partners.

Innovative products

Besides the core target audience from the concrete and precast industries, the congress once again attracted attendees from the building materials industry, associations, universities and vocational training centers, quality assurance and testing, as well as stakeholders relevant to the industry, such as representatives from the public sector and architects and engineers. The exhibition accompanying the technical program was the appropriate venue to get in touch with all important representatives of the supplier industry. Moreover, the European Federation for Precast Concrete seized the opportunity to hold its meeting in Neu-Ulm prior to the BetonTage.

FBF President Sommer was positive about the future state of the economy. At least in building construction, the move toward safe investments in assets such as real estate, current order backlogs and numbers of building permits provided promising prospects for a stable trend. However, the precast industry should not just rely on volume increases. Instead, it should attract clients by offering innovative, future-proof products.


Building sustainably with concrete

How can we build sustainably, durably and in a resource-saving manner? This question was one of the key aspects dealt with throughout the technical program: from the keynote speech given by Prof. Dr.-Ing. Werner Sobek, who demonstrated his understanding of future-proof, sustainable building with concrete, to research projects on functionally graded concrete and low-emission cements, as well as the presentation of life-cycle assessments and environmental product declarations for specific precast components. In addition, the interdependencies between the sustainability strategy of the Federal government and the precast industry were outlined, and the underlying conditions for building with precast components defined by the new European Construction Products Regulation were described.

In the afternoon, the product-specific panels once again covered all relevant segments of precast, including presentations on cast stone, concrete products for road construction and gardening and landscaping, pipeline construction, structural precast, lightweight concrete and small wastewater treatment plants.


Hands-on workshop

As before, Prof. Dr.-Ing. Hans-Joachim Walther, Director of the Technical Program of the BetonTage, conceived the program for these panels in collaboration with leading industry organizations. For the first time, legal assessments of cases of damage were not dealt with separately but discussed directly as part of the individual panels. Each of the technical opinions given by the engineering experts was complemented by an evaluation provided by legal expert Prof. Dr. Gerd Motzke.

As the first of its kind, a workshop for practitioners was held simultaneously with the congress at the Ferdinand-von-Steinbeis-Schule in Ulm. This continuing training offering to precast plant and production managers was dedicated to topics such as colored and ultra-high performance concrete and concrete repairs. It was complemented by hands-on demonstrations. After the workshop, many of the participants used the opportunity to visit the BetonTage exhibition.


Concrete in architecture

As usual, the third congress day offered panels dedicated to the market partners of the precast industry. More than 260 architects attended the ‘Concrete in Architecture’ panel, which was opened by Gerhard Wittfeld, of kadawittfeldarchitektur, an architects’ firm based in Aachen. He advocated the view that buildings were to serve its users and observers, and thus required customized layout strategies. According to him, this approach would be possible only on the basis of a close cooperation and exchange with the client.

Prof. Josef Hegger, of RWTH Aachen, also spoke in favor of a closer cross-disciplinary collaboration between architects and engineers. He added that this was the only possible approach to combining the use of innovative building materials with conceiving state-of-the-art architecture. Representatives of renowned practices then presented their projects; many of these received the Architekturpreis Beton (Architecture Award for Concrete).

The panel organized jointly with Deutscher Beton- und Bautechnik-Verein e. V. attracted a large number of attendees. It was primarily geared towards construction contractors and concentrated on topics such as architectural concrete, concrete repairs and waterproof roof and floor structures. The panel saw a slight increase in the number of participants from structural engineering offices, who attended the BetonTage not only on the Market Partners’ Day but also on the first two congress days. This year’s Thursday program focused on the introduction of the Eurocode 2 with its National Annex and its implications for day-to-day practice.

2013 BetonTage congress

“A very successful event“, “compared to last year, the technical quality of the program has again improved“, “it was well worth attending” – these are just some of the statements given by attendees of the 2012 BetonTage congress. Save the date if you plan on attending next year’s congress: the 2013 event will be held from 5 to 7 February.


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