Composite materials will be more prevalent. Research and experimentation with composite surfaces as a replacement for plywood has been conducted for years, but the higher composite costs have not yet made it an economical alternative. As that cost disadvantage shrinks and plywood supply becomes less reliable, more suppliers will introduce composite products. Composites will not be limited to just plywood replacement either. We are also likely to see steel and aluminum components evaluated and replaced in many systems. Form assembly time will be reduced by using magnets or snap-together components to connect, tie and align forms.

Concrete mix design will continue to advance. Self-consolidating concrete will be more widely used. Ready-mix innovation might reduce the high form pressures that limit placing rates in tall walls and columns. Insulating materials might be incorporated into the ready-mix and eliminate the foam panels currently positioned within the wall or attached after form removal. Aggregate selection might be expanded to include composites or ceramics molded to sizes that optimize the strength, weight and other required design properties.

Computer software will continue to reduce office time requirements. Project scheduling and material flow will be enhanced by running “what if” scenarios in a matter of minutes. Embedded chips will be used to protect, control and monitor equipment. “Smart” components will notify users if pressures or loads are approaching or exceeding design limits. Smart systems might even alert users to connections or critical components that are missing or improperly installed.

Specialty systems will continue to proliferate. There will likely be even more forming systems designed for specific concrete structures to maximize construction productivity.

—Michael Miller

Read more prognostications by industry leaders on the next 50 years of concrete.