NEW YORK The Concrete Reinforcing Steel Institute (CRSI) and the Charles Pankow Foundation are setting the groundwork for a sea change in the domestic rebar industry as producers take a hard look at making higher grades of rebar a larger part of their product mix.
The non-profit Charles Pankow Foundation is funding two studies on the applications of high-strength rebar by the University of Washington and Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates Inc. that are due to be completed this week. CRSI also is preparing to host an educational session on increasing use of the product in the United States at next months American Concrete Institute (ACI) convention in Phoenix.
"Absolutely, theres a market out there for high-strength rebar, and its only within the last two years that the industry is beginning to realize and utilize the benefits with using high-strength steel," Tom Russo, chief executive officer of Irvine, Calif.-based MMFX Technologies Corp., which licenses high-strength rebar to third-party producers, said.
The product accounted for 2.62 percent of total rebar production at major U.S. rebar mills in 2012. In 2010, Grade 75 and Grade 80 rebar made up 1.68 percent of domestic output, according to data collected by the CRSI from such producers as Nucor Corp., Charlotte, N.C.; Gerdau Long Steel North America, Tampa, Fla.; and Commercial Metals Co., Irving, Texas.
Current building codes dont support the use of high-strength rebar, and it will take extensive research before change occurs, Charles Pankow Foundation executive director Mark Perniconi said.
"A lot of research needs to be done to support the use of high-strength rebar for building applications. Its the research needed to support a global code change for higher-strength steel," he said.
The last major change in rebar usage occurred in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when much of the industry shifted from Grade 40 rebar to Grade 60, the grade most commonly used today. The ACI guidelines, the authoritative industry building standards, havent been changed in more than 40 years.
"The same thing happened when the industry went from Grade 40 to Grade 60," Perniconi said. "What were looking at now is to go from Grade 60 to Grade 80 or a little higher."
Changing the ACIs codes will require millions of dollars of research, he said.
There are practicality issues involved in the fabrication of higher-strength, less ductile grades, and one purpose of future studies will be to determine if high-strength rebar is economical to use, CRSI president and chief executive officer Robert Risser said.
"Its value engineering," Russo said. "You can have between 25 and 30 percent of cost saving in multiple areas, including labor for on-site fabrication, reduction in tonnage and improved pouring efficiency. ... Its ultimately up to the owner to decide if they want to use a higher-cost material to offset their costs."