Standing on Barcelona’s seafront, the building was originally constructed in 1899 as a starch factory. Years later, the site was repurposed to house the headquarters of chemical company Compañía Auxiliar del Comercio y la Industria (CACI). With a surface area of approximately 5,100 m, it was one of the first structural strengthening project in Spain to incorporate the principles of the Hennebique system.

  • Name of the owner and client
    City of Badalona
  • Delivery date of the project
    July 2014
CACI reinforced concrete factory - Hennebique system

One of the few surviving examples of the Hennebique system

This solution derives its name from French engineer François Hennebique (1842–1921), who is considered to be the father of reinforced concrete. The system features a simple arrangement of columns and ribbed floor slabs (main beams, trusses and slabs) made from reinforced concrete. The major innovation was that the longitudinal reinforcements were joined vertically by a series of abutments to provide structural support, and arranged closer together as they approached the bearings.

The CACI plant fell into disuse in the 1980s, but was taken over by the city’s authorities, who decided to refurbish the site as part of their plans to open the Catalan Museum of Comics and Illustration. Freyssinet was awarded the contract for the first phase of carrying out the structural refurbishment works.

An alternative solution to safeguard the structure’s integrity

The building’s coastal location and the poor condition of the roofs and windows caused the materials to deteriorate faster than anticipated and led to severe corrosion, as well as major cracks, spalling and even a partial collapse of the concrete structure.
To a certain extent, the initial restoration plan altered the original reinforced concrete design by incorporating structural steel. In its tender, Freyssinet described how it would strengthen the main columns and beams with reinforced concrete and micro-concrete after cleaning and repairing the existing structure, while strengthening the secondary beams and slabs with reinforced concrete.

A key component of the project involved using the work methods and techniques for refurbishing reinforced concrete structures. Although they are common in civil engineering, they are rarely used in the construction industry and especially when restoring historical buildings.

CACI reinforced concrete factory - concrete degradations
CACI reinforced concrete factory - scaffolding

Operating methods

After shoring up and cleaning the reinforced concrete factory structure, Freyssinet’s teams began dismantling the floor layout and roughening the floors and interior wall coatings, so that they could inspect for any underlying problems and perform tests accordingly. The next step involved removing the asbestos, followed by protecting and removing the roof trusses for subsequent repair and restoration, while strengthening the banding at the crown for bracing the facades. The repaired trusses were returned to their original position. Once the operating methods had been approved, construction work began on refurbishing and strengthening the structure.

Refurbishment and structural strengthening

The entire concrete structure requiring protection was cleaned by spraying the surfaces with micro-particles. The areas containing cracked concrete were sanded and prepared before their reinforcements underwent passivation treatment. The main columns and beams were reinforced with high-strength (fck >= 50 MPa) fibre-reinforced, shrinkage-controlled micro-concrete using formwork and pouring. Column reinforcements were continued between the floors, and longitudinal reinforcements and shear trusses were fitted in the beams, meaning that holes had to be drilled in the slabs and columns. The secondary beams and slabs were repaired by rebuilding their volume and adding an additional centimetre of coating by spraying on fibre-reinforced thixotropic mortar and increasing the edge using a 4-cm reinforced-concrete extension connected at the level.

CACI reinforced concrete factory - structural strengthening
CACI Factory - structural strengthening

Once the required concrete strength was obtained, an ultimate limit state load test was performed on the refurbished reinforced concrete factory structure, which proved to be successful.

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