If you want your next outdoor feature or landscaping element to be truly unique, there are a number of ways to achieve this when designing with precast concrete. Precast concrete offers a wealth of customisation options, and this article will focus specifically on how the aggregate materials in a concrete mix can create spectacular results.
Standard aggregate materials
Typically, the standard aggregates used in SVC concrete mixes are stones of varying sizes, sourced from local quarries. With attractive options like quartz, river pebble, bluemetal and granite readily available, clients already have a wide design palette to choose from. The size of the aggregates, whether coarse or fine, and the base colour of the concrete mix also provide additional ways to personalise the product.
Using alternative materials
Customers looking for a non-standard finish may seek other types of aggregates to make their concrete product look more appealing. Keep in mind that the main purpose of aggregate material is to strengthen the concrete mix, meaning that aggregates should be hard and durable enough to meet strength requirements.
Should a specified material not meet the strength requirements, it isn’t immediately ruled out from being able to be used in the product. A workaround method is to use a standard gravel mixture to strengthen the mix, and to scatter the decorative aggregates across the top face of the concrete before it sets. Later, the product can be polished or shot-blasted to reveal the decorative elements in the surface.
The choice of aggregate material is open to imagination, with some designers even incorporating items like seashells and mother of pearl fragments into their concrete products. SVC has used unusual aggregates on certain custom projects in the past, with some examples listed below:
The bollards and street furniture used in the Beaumaris Concourse upgrade above feature fragments of crushed red brick aggregate. The resulting vibrant red colour of the concrete products is a distinctive feature of the new concourse. Designers Fitzgerald Frisby Landscape Architecture chose this material to pay homage to the red brick pavers that were used as the main flooring element of the previous concourse design.
Glass fragments provide the most flexibility in terms of adding colour into a concrete product. Glass is a relatively stable aggregate material, and with the wide range of colours available, it allows the creation of colourful details that would be very hard to replicate with plain concrete and natural stone aggregates.
Like glass, mirror fragments can easily be added into a concrete mix. The reflective quality of the material adds a shiny, metallic lustre into a finished concrete surface that can be further enhanced with a polishing treatment.
If you want to make a strong impression, consider using aggregates that glow in the dark! Photoluminescent stone fragments do exactly that. By day, the stone fragments are lightly opaque, but once night falls, they radiate a bright fluorescent blue or green glow.
Choosing to use a unique aggregate material, like some of the ones mentioned above, can also provide environmentally friendly benefits. Glass and mirror fragments that are used as concrete aggregates are often made from recycled material, reducing the amount of waste. In the Beaumaris Concourse project mentioned earlier, the crushed red brick used in the concrete mix was salvaged from the actual pavers used in the previous concourse design.
Various other materials can be repurposed for use as aggregate material, including recycled concrete, demolition waste material and reclaimed aggregates from asphalt and scrap tyres. Though these materials may not be as visually appealing as coloured glass, the environmental benefit of using them proves just as attractive.