Introduced in 1969, glass-reinforced cement (GRC) has become a useful material for the designers, architects and engineers. An environmentally friendly cementitious composite, GRC today is a strong lightweight material that can be moulded to many shapes and applications. We can track the development of GRC and it’s uses by following the history of BCM from the late ’70s as we have led the way in the development of the application of GRC in agriculture, drainage, architecture, formwork, and rail.
Despite being a relatively new material GRC found favour in the agriculture and drainage industries where GRC’s high strength, comparative lightweight and ability to withstand harsh environments made it ideal for the manufacture of cattle drinking troughs, manholes, access covers and land drainage products such as headwalls, inspection chambers, and pipe drain inlets. The advantages of these products remain to this day, they are not only easy to install in inaccessible locations, but they are also far more economical to produce than brick build or cast concrete alternative.
Originally developed as an alternative to asbestos cladding materials, in the early 80’s GRC was being used increasingly by BCM to manufacture a wide array of agriculture products, at this time it was also “discovered” by architects and others in the construction industry for use in cornices, consoles, copings, fascia, window surrounds, mullions and other architectural fascias and supports. It was also found that GRC could produce replicas of cast iron and stone ornamental work. In their original form, most of these products reflected the splendour of Britain’s architectural heritage. Unfortunately, they also had their foundation in the skills displayed by craftsmen from a bygone era – skills which were either no longer available or, if they were, prohibitive in their cost. GRC became the perfect economic alternative.
By 1986, research had proven that GRC was the ideal material from which to manufacture the formwork and channel used by the civil engineering industry to construct bridges and other structures. Apart from advantages such as ease of installation and connection on-site, GRC also provided one major benefit – as a cementitious material it could form a complete bond with main structures, usually cast out of concrete. The extent of GRC’s success and its practical application in the civil engineering industry during this period can be illustrated by the fact that more than 45,000 square metres were used on the various bridge and tunneling contracts during the construction of the M25 alone. At this time, the discovery that GRC was non-combustible and would not emit toxic fumes became a major consideration in its use for many safety-critical products. British Rail, for example, decided to use GRC for the channels and joint bay covers it needs to protect both high voltage cables and signaling equipment throughout its network.
In the water industry GRC proved popular for the construction of sampling chambers used to monitor the outflow from sewage works.
Features such as cornice with dentils, capitals, pitched porticos, window surrounds, copings, gable features, and bottle balustrading continued to be specified by architects for use in such buildings as London’s Playhouse Theatre. In 1989 GRC moved into sporting areas, the bowling green channel, designed to strict English Bowling Green Association standards and manufactured in preformed lengths was the first example. Additionally, drainage schemes on sports grounds and golf courses used access chambers made by BCM.
GRC makes further inroads into the architectural, civil engineering, and sporting industries and begins to play a part in providing solutions to some of the modern-day environmental problems ranging from water purification through to fly posting.
Tree and plant containers were developed for specific use in municipal areas and large landscaping schemes, strong and crack resistant they can be produced in various designs and colours. Some were used at the millennium site in Greenwich.
Water control units, to be installed in streams or ditches prove useful for varying the level of water for irrigation and other purposes.
BCM GRC Limited continues to strive for excellence in the manufacture of GRC and to expand its markets and applications with rail applications of GRC becoming a major part of our business, producing a variety of GRC Channelling products.
The new millennium has seen BCM GRC Ltd go from strength to strength and with the original owners taking the opportunity to pursue other interests, our new owners have invested time and money in increasing production capacity further enhancing the abilities of BCM GRC.
2002 saw the introduction of the popular STORMDRAIN high capacity line drainage system, followed in 2006 by the new larger sized pre-formed headwalls.
The introduction of the GClad rainscreen system, in 2010 was brought about by the ever-changing construction industry and the requirements for a quick and simple installation utilising modern building design where the outer skin is more of a veneer to an already watertight building, whilst still replicating more traditional materials.
The use of GRC on stadia at the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa and the use of GRC in the 2012 Olympics then lead to an increased interest in using GRC as architectural cladding, of which BCM GRC were right at the forefront of. We also supplied GRC cladding to the Athletes Village for the London 2012 Olympics:
In recent years, the use of GRC for architectural applications in particular has grown dramatically.
Be it shopping centres, stadiums, high-end apartment blocks, you name it, architectural GRC is a growing market and BCM GRC Ltd are right at the heart of it.
Why not visit our recent projects page to see examples of our most recent work: