Lighter, Lower-Carbon Concrete Decks with BubbleDeck
November 1, 2013
What if you could take a concrete deck and replace a lot of its material with air—getting not only a stronger, lighter, thinner deck, but also one that can be delivered to the jobsite for quick assembly? You’d have BubbleDeck—a matrix of plastic spheres, steel reinforcement, and concrete. It’s not only capable of replacing a significant quantity of concrete and its high carbon emissions but also provides a number of other performance advantages.
BubbleDeck consists of hollow, high-density polyethylene spheres—typically made by local water bottle manufacturers—sandwiched between two structural steel mesh grids formed by welding rebar together. A thicker rebar is used on the bottom mesh and is welded to a specially designed lattice girder imported from BubbleDeck’s parent company in Denmark; when the spheres are added, they settle between the grids, and a thinner grid is welded on top to form a “cage.” The cage is then put in a concrete casting bed, where about three inches of concrete are added to the base to form a panel. All of this work is done at a pre-caster for quality control. The panels are then moved into place using the girder and tied off with rebar, and concrete is added to fill in the spaces between the spheres and cover them. After pouring, a BubbleDeck slab is indistinguishable from a conventional slab, but it is significantly lighter and thinner.