Lightweight and durable expanded polystyrene geofoam is proving to be a useful alternative to traditional fill materials for concrete construction, writes Saloni Walimbe. The multifunctional material can be used for roadways, stadiums, thermal insulation and landscaping, among other applications.
Crushed rock, soil, sand, and other earthen fills have largely dominated the construction industry for ages. The familiar, ubiquitous, and inexpensive nature of these materials has made them the preferred option for the construction industry over the years.
However, since their characteristics can vary depending on their excavation source, and can thus change according to factors like weather, these conventional fills are significantly unpredictable, which has led the industry to seek more stable and sustainable alternatives.
In recent years, the “less is more” concept has permeated nearly every aspect of the modern world, including construction engineering. To that end, geosynthetic materials are emerging as the new, lightweight alternatives to traditional fill materials, thereby providing a solution to myriad construction challenges.
Geofoam is proving to be especially useful in this regard, as the material is considered to be a perfect fit for solving construction issues through unprecedented flexibility and strength.
Geofoam is expanded polystyrene (EPS) or extruded polystyrene (XPS) manufactured into large lightweight blocks. The blocks vary in size but are often 2 m × 0.75 m × 0.75 m (6.6 ft × 2.5 ft × 2.5 ft). The primary function of geofoam is to provide a lightweight void fill below a highway, bridge approach, embankment or parking lot. EPS Geofoam minimizes settlement on underground utilities. Geofoam is also used in much broader applications, including lightweight fill, green roof fill, compressible inclusions, thermal insulation, and (when appropriately formed) drainage.