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Optimizing roads for longer life performance with glass grid

Optimizing roads for longer life performance with glass grid

by Ritesh Patterson, General Manager, Adfors

Road infrastructure is the backbone of the Indian economy and a vital driver of its growth. The sector’s importance reflects in the role it plays in everyday life; India has the second-largest road network in the world, transporting 64.5% of all commodities and 90% of all passenger traffic in the country. As the demand for better interconnectivity between cities, towns, and villages has grown, this network has expanded considerably over the last few years. IBEF estimates that nearly $1.4 trillion will be spent on infrastructure projects, including roads, between 2019 and 2023 as part of the National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP). 

It is little wonder, then, that infrastructure, particularly for roads, was one of the priority areas in this year’s Union Budget. A new Infrastructure Finance Secretariat has been created to not only assist current stakeholders but also to invite more private investment into critical infrastructure projects, which have historically been funded by the taxpayer. The budget also announced a Harmonized Master List of Infrastructure to be assessed by an expert group to determine the categorization and finance scheme.

What works for India's road infrastructure is the robust foundation that is already in place. The country’s road infrastructure is spread across a cumulative 5.89 million kilometers that, in terms of the distance covered, is only behind the US. What can be better, however, is how India goes about expanding it – specifically, the material used to build its roads. Furthermore, the critical point is optimal maintenance of the roads that will be constructed. The roads must be at the desired level of performance for their intended design life. 

Road repair & maintenance: Next big market
Nowadays, we hear news about road construction (greenfield & brownfield), per day construction target, yearly target, and so on, but we don’t hear that such rapid road construction happening now, will require upkeep, maintenance, periodic repairs. Therefore, road maintenance is going to be a sunrise industry in the coming years as there will be a huge inventory of road projects available for repairs, rehabilitation, and periodic resurfacing coming years. India constructs large amounts of asphalt roads (because of cost, and environmental concerns) and less concrete. All these asphalt roads will require repair, maintenance, and resurfacing every 3-5 yrs of time depending upon various factors like loading, traffic, etc. We are going to witness the use of new materials and technologies for the repair and maintenance of roads in years to come. With the advent of TOT, the HAM model, where private companies and investors (including foreign entities) are bidding, acquiring road assets like never before, will certainly look for new technologies, and materials to increase the service life of roads to reduce recurring cost and life cycle cost modal will become popular. 
Building for good: what makes the material so critical to road repair/maintenance
Road repair and maintenance are done periodically to maintain the serviceability of roads while sudden, unplanned repairs happen around the year to address the deficiency, and distress to address specific road sections. By far we have been using conventional methods (largely) to repair, and maintain roads. There is a need to incorporate new technologies, and materials in road repairs, and maintenance. Realizing the importance of this new market and the need of the hour, Government has also started advising stakeholders to use innovative, new technologies and some tweaking to construction manuals, codal provisions are being done to promote the use of new technologies with a sole aim to reduce maintenance cost. 
On another hand, it may become a compulsion for stakeholders to use new technologies due to the increasing scarcity of natural resources, ie, aggregate, which getting dearer and unavailable with the passing of each year. Aggregate along with asphalt forms the main material which is used in any bituminous overlay, resurfacing, repair & maintenance of roads. With restrictions on illegal quarrying and environmental protection gaining momentum, it is going to be difficult to source that volume of aggregates (corresponding to the need for road repair and maintenance of projects). 
As stated above, realizing this potential big market, there is rise to alternative materials, and new technologies to meet the challenges of road assets management. 
Glass grid: Understanding the differentiation that innovation delivers
The grid has been invented by Saint Gobain in the early 80s and since then it has become part of maintenance plans for stakeholders around the world. Glass grid interlayer system acts as a sandwich layer and prevents the reflection of cracks, which is one of the main reasons for road repair, and maintenance. Further, Glass grid also increases the service life of bituminous roads significantly by integrating various functionalities and use cases. It provides better performance in terms of fatigue damage, improves the reflection cracking resistance, and reduces the rutting of bituminous roads. This reduces the operational and maintenance costs associated with road infrastructure, enabling Glass grid projects to last up to 30 years without significant cracking or rutting, even when supporting heavy vehicles and large traffic volumes. This is why Glass grid finds application in periodic road repairs & maintenance, road resurfacing, and rehabilitation projects (such as deep milling and 40 mm thick bituminous overlay projects), cement-treated base pavements (CTB), full-depth reclamation pavements (FDR), greenfield construction, and bituminous overlay on cement concrete road, etc.
Last and most important is the sustainability factor associated with Glass grid. Recycled from strong and incredibly lightweight glass spheres, Glass grid consumes fewer natural resources than comparable alternatives. More importantly, by lowering the requirement for hefty and often carbon-intensive repair work, it also minimizes the lifetime carbon footprint of road infrastructure. 
This unparalleled utility and differentiation have resulted in the widespread adoption of Glass grid, which is used extensively in nearly 3,500 projects in over 64 countries annually. Leading industry players such as Saint-Gobain India Adfors have also created innovative products such as Composite Glass Grid that find application across a host of use cases, from airport runway projects (public-private partnerships, defense, or civil) to road projects of all sizes (national highways, elevated road projects, state highways, etc), among others. 
Mapping the road ahead: What next for road infrastructure
As an emerging global superpower, India will need to develop its road infrastructure. Experts have already highlighted why building more – and better – roads will be essential to the country’s push to become a $5 trillion economy within this decade. Using innovations such as Glass Grid can not only help to achieve this aim but also create a well-connected, well-integrated, and sustainability-led road infrastructure that lasts for years and decades to come.

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