President Joe Biden’s USD$2 trillion housing and infrastructure agenda have been met with mixed reactions from the construction industry. A recent Infrastructure Intelligence commentary detailed that 55% of contractors believe that the plan would do more harm than good. Increasing costs and falling demand for new construction projects have been putting contractors on the back foot.
However, with the economy slowly normalizing amid COVID-19, experts expect the construction industry to regain momentum. GlobalData predicts that it’ll grow by an average of 1.4% over the next three years, and one of the reasons is being in a remote working setup which fuels the demand for new housing.
Nevertheless, the problems mentioned earlier will continue to plague the construction industry one way or another. Construction firms should invest a great deal in improving their processes to help reduce project costs. These include, but aren’t limited to, exhaustive audits and modern solutions.
Among the latter are packaging solutions like bulk bags and container liners. Transporting cement, gravel, and other materials across the construction site demands a reliable system. Here are several reasons construction firms and other applications should consider getting them.
According to a 2018 report by the Environmental Protection Agency, construction and demolition (C&D) accounted for twice as much solid waste in towns and cities. While the report also detailed that demolition accounts for 90% of the waste generated, construction projects still produced about 60 million tons of solid waste. A quarter of it ended up in overburdened landfills across the U.S.
Waste is nothing less of a hot topic in the construction industry. Excess materials and scrap on-sites are all too familiar sights, which can drive projects in the red without any means of using them all. Sometimes, the lack of proper storage can lead contractors to believe they’ve run out of specific materials and end up needlessly purchasing more.
Bulk bag manufacturers believe that packaging solutions can mitigate waste by keeping materials in pristine condition, reducing the need to buy additional quantities. For instance, silica—a typical ingredient for mortar or cement—deteriorates when exposed to constant UV radiation. By tailoring bulk bags to block UV radiation, silica can be maintained on-site for extended periods.
Furthermore, bulk bags and other solutions can be used again and again, provided proper handling. Their original integrity can remain after multiple uses, decreasing transport and storage expenses.
If waste is a hot topic in the industry, then safety is a buzzword. No project or relevant discussion can begin without talking about safety in the workplace—even then, projects still suffer casualties. Of over 5,000 worker fatalities, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) logged in 2019, a fifth of them was in the construction site.
Any contractor will vouch for the plethora of ways a site worker can get hurt, one of which involves transporting materials. The poor choice of containers or handling during transport can result in the materials falling on top of workers’ heads. OSHA refers to such an incident as one prime example of hazardous energy, of which its control is a recurring safety issue.
While packaging solutions are built to withstand the rigors of construction, some can remain useful after multiple uses. Bulk bags, for instance, have a minimum safety factor ratio (SFR) of 5:1, which means they can hold five times as much as their safe workload (SWL). For reference, a standard bulk bag has an SWL of 5,000 lbs.
However, ISO 21898, which standardizes packaging for non-dangerous goods, warns against using 5:1 rated packaging solutions for multiple-time use. Instead, it advocates packaging solutions with an SFR of at least 6:1, as they’re durable enough to be used over and over. Most bulk bags in use have SFRs that can reach up to 8:1.
Despite these impressive ratios, experts don’t recommend filling packaging solutions beyond their SWL for safety reasons. Multiple-use containers should undergo constant reconditioning after each use to maintain their integrity. It’s also important to select the right type for the right material.
- Type A for non-hazardous materials
- Type B for dry, flammable powders
- Types C and D for other combustibles
Even if it costs contractors extra, safety should be one aspect of any project that shouldn’t see any significant cost-cutting.
As mentioned previously, a packaging solution that blocks UV radiation can protect materials like silica from degradation. This feature is crucial from both environmental and safety points of view.
From an environmental perspective, preserving building materials long enough to finish a project is in the best interest of any contractor. It cuts down on excess materials that can build up on-site, which will require extra resources to store or dispose of. While achieving zero waste in construction is impossible for now, reaching close to such a goal is a step in the right direction.
The safety aspect of materials handling is perhaps more critical. On the matter of hazardous energy, it also includes electrical and chemical sources such as static electricity. The friction produced by the material inside the container coming into contact with its surface can build up enough charge which can result in a fire or explosion when left unattended.
Some packaging solutions are designed with anti-static features, namely Types C and D bulk bags. Type C bags are made out of non-conductive fabric that enables a ground connection during filling or dispensing. Meanwhile, Type D bags feature a special fabric that safely dissipates static charges into the air without the need for a ground connection.
In addition, each of the four types of bulk bags has a minimum ignition energy (MIE) rating, which is based on the storage environment. According to NFPA 654:
- Type A is used for materials with an MIE of more than 1,000 millijoules (mJ)
- Type B is for materials with an MIE between 3 mJ and 1,000 mJ
- Type C is for those with conductive powders and have an MIE of more than 0.14 mJ
- Type D is also used for those with an MIE of over 0.14 mJ but not for those with conductive powders.
Overall, packaging solutions are too critical for construction firms to perform work efficiently. They offer benefits that will allow new projects to be completed despite the economy still recovering, especially if the industry hopes to revitalize itself. Invest in packaging that helps in waste reduction, provides safety, and improves material handling.