SELF COMPACTING CONCRETE: CHALLENGE FOR DESIGNER AND RESEARCHER

Joost Walraven Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands

ABSTRACT
Self compacting, or “self-consolidating” concrete (SCC) was first developed in Japan in the early nineties. The idea was picked up and further developed in Europe from about 1997. Substantial research was carried out with regard to the properties of SCC. Because of the well-controlled conditions, the introduction of SCC in the precast concrete industry was successful. With regard to the application in situ, the development is slower, because of the sensitivity of the product. In this paper the mechanical properties of SCC in comparison to conventional concrete are discussed. Examples of applications are shown, both for prefabricated concrete elements and in-situ structures. The way of measuring the rheological properties is discussed. Examples are given of special self-compacting concrete’s. Needs for further research are defined.

INTRODUCTION
Self compacting (or self consolidating) concrete (SCC) was first developed in Japan, in the early nineties of the previous century, under the stimulating leadership of Prof. Okamura. The main idea behind self compacting concrete was, that such a concrete is robust and relatively insensitive to bad workmanship. In Western Europe the idea was picked up at the end of the last century. The main drive to develop self compacting concrete’s was the option to improve the labor conditions at the building site and in the factory (noise, dust, vibrations). During recent years self-compacting concrete developed to research item nr. 1. A large number of research projects was carried out, followed by recommendations for potential users. Especially for the precast concrete industry self compacting concrete was a revolutionary step forward. Contrary to that, casting of SCC at the construction site was regarded with more reservation. The variable conditions at the construction site, the more complicated control of the mixture composition and disagreement with regard to the question how the properties should be measured at the site were retarding factors. In spite of a number of successful examples, some problems due to unsuitable use of SCC generated further scepticism. Hence, the major task now is to develop SCC mixtures, which are less sensitive to deviations in properties of the components and external conditions.

PROPERTIES OF SELF COMPACTING CONCRETE
The Japanese way of composing the optimum mixture composition of SCC consists of a number of steps. At first, in a small test, the optimum ratio water to powder is

fine particles and powder) with intermediate layers of paste and water is obtained which minimize the internal friction in the fresh state. for which the concrete is still self compacting. but as powder.9. The rheologic properties of the excess paste layers are determined by the choice of the superplasticizer.05mm.8 the appropriate thickness increases overproportionally.09mm are not considered as aggregate. If the thickness is too large. and that the fine aggregate volume should be 40% of the mortar volume. is mathematically analyzed. 1. however. Below Vw/Vp = 0. there is too much friction to achieve self compactability. That means that slightly more paste is in the mixture than necessary to fill all the holes between the particles: this implies that around any particle a very thin “lubricating” layer exists. the coarse aggregate sink down and segregation occurs. the most important of which are that the coarse aggregate volume should be 50% of the solid volume of the concrete without air. The mean thickness of the excess paste layer is then in the order of magnitude of 0. If the composition of the mixture. Furthermore.8 – 0. Excess paste layers around aggregate particles Fig. Fig. Midorikawa [2] carried out tests in order to find the optimum thickness of the excess paste layer. Then a number of general criteria have to be met. this area is not relevant. 1. In this way a three phase system (coarse particles. where particles finer than 0. increases with decreasing volume of water. Vwater/Vpowder Thickness of excess paste [µm] Fig. The optimum thickness of those layers lies between narrow limits. obtained in this way. Relation between thickness of excess paste layer and water to powder ratio for various particle grading curves [2] . in the fresh state around the cement and powder particles thin layers of water are formed [1]. 2. 2 shows the optimum thickness of the layer for a varying ratio Vw/Vp (volume of water to volume of powder) for different grading curves. Fig. The optimum ratio in this case is in the range Vw/Vp = 0. it is found that this procedure leads to a concrete composition with a little bit of “excess paste”. For practical application. by virtue of which the friction between the particles in the fluid mixture is greatly reduced in comparison to conventional mixtures. that the thickness of the paste layer. It is seen. If the thickness is too small.determined.

Of course it makes sense to carry out suitability tests in the case of special applications. 3. It is . It seems to be obvious. However. In that case. crack width control and the minimum reinforcement.An important question is. also here the results are in the range of scatter of conventional concretes. however. Modulus of elasticity of self-compacting concrete [3]. Another important aspect is the formwork pressure of self compacting concrete. An evaluation of test results [3] confirms this. Another important aspect for the behavior in the hardened state is the concrete tensile strength. Many measurements have been carried out. collected in one diagram. that the E-modulus of selfcompacting concrete is not outside of the region of scatter of conventional concretes. It should. to which extent the lubricant layer influences the properties of the concrete in the hardened stage. this should have large implications for design.and shrinkage properties should be carefully investigated. punching. that for instance the modulus of elasticity of SCC is smaller than that of a conventional concrete of the same strength. but the results were often conflicting. as a results of the effect of the relatively soft lubricant layers. that the E-modulus of an SCC is indeed somewhat smaller. such as for structures in high speed railway lines. because of the more homogeneous interface between the aggregate particles and the cement past (no direct contact between the aggregate particles). so that no complicating exception for SCC has to be made. For practical applications it can therefore be assumed. Fig. since the tensile strength is a governing aspect in the design for shear. An evaluation by Holschemacher [3] showed. 4 shows the results of a number of Swedish [4] and Dutch [5] tests. not be forgotten. When the axial tensile strength of a SCC would substantially differ from that of the tensile strength of conventional concrete. Fig. also the creep. anchorage. Fig. however. that also the E-moduli of normal concretes are subjected to scatter. It is obvious to expect that the tensile strength of SCC is higher than for a conventional concrete. Often the role of the rising speed of the concrete in the formwork was disregarded. most of all in dependence of the stiffness of the aggregate used. 3.

According to the rheologic behavior SCC is a Bingham fluid. that it is important to be well informed about the properties of the SCC that are required for the application considered. Such a fluid is characterized by two parameters: the yield value and the plastic viscosity. however. Therefore it was decided to change the concrete composition. should not stimulate the conclusion that SCC is a risky material. Fig.6 1. however. For the concretes tested. During casting it was observed that the concrete was too sticky. This may result in disappointments. but suddenly increases due to a shock against the formwork. that for lower rising speeds a reduction of the formwork pressure is a reliable assumption. that SCC is the best solution for every difficult case. Height [m] 3 hydrostatic 2 1. however. which resulted in sinking down of the coarse aggregate particles. The plastic viscosity is a measure for the flow rate (toughness) of the mixture. 5 right shows a case.visible that the rising speed of the concrete in the formwork influences the formwork pressure. it may happen that the formwork pressure is initially very low. does not imply. Formwork pressure for different rising speeds for SCC TAILORING SCC TO APPLICATIONS It is often assumed. necessary to get the concrete moving.0 rising speed in m/h 1 0. 4. This.4 3 0 4 0 2 5 0 10 6 0 7 0 0 Pressure [kPa] Fig. It is therefore advisable to work always with the hydrostatic formwork pressure. The yield value is a measure for the force. Fig. When the yield value is high and the plastic viscosity is low. air enclosures occurred at the interface between the two concretes.8 1. in which the lubricating action of the excess paste layers around the aggregate particles was “too good”. Those two examples. As a result. . from a rising speed of about 2m/hour the distribution of the pressure corresponds approximately to the hydrostatic pressure. But they emphasize. 5 left shows a problem which occurred during casting a tunnel wall.3 0 1 0 2 0 1.

04 Slump Class mm S1 S2 S3 S4 S5 10-40 50-90 100-150 160-210  220 Flow Class mm F1 F2 F3 F4 F5 F6  340 350-410 420-480 490-550 560-620  630 Table I: Consistency classes according to EN 206 For a reliable application. For the qualification of the concrete the Japanese method was used. the funnel with defined dimensions and the cone. These tools were used as a basis to extend the consistency classes. alternative to the yield value and the plastic viscosity. at the right side segregation of the coarse aggregate. Fig. this is insufficient. like the new European code for concrete technology EN 206.45-1. SCC is a Bingham fluid. 5. with which the behavior of SCC at the construction site can be qualified. however.26 C2 1. characterized by two parameters.25-1. The flowability classes F5 and F6 are only characterized by one parameter: the flow diameter. The flow diameter and the funnel passing time are again two qualifying parameters. no special reference is made to SCC.11 C3 1.46 C1 1. Table I shows the concrete consistency classes according to this code. offering a simple method on the bases of two tools.Fig. . Failures due to unsuitable application of SCC: at the left side air entrapments between two concrete layers. Compaction Class C0 1.10-1. As stated before. 6. In The Netherlands therefore an extension of the consistency classes was carried out. The tools are furthermore very suitable to be used at the building site. because they can be very easily handled. Even in relatively new codes and recommendations.

see fig. 8. on the contrary. If. with partners from many European countries a thorough evaluation was made with regard to the effectivity and the value of those measuring methods. 8 also other areas are defined. for any range of the slump flow three intervals for the funnel time are defined. In Fig. In a Brite-Euram project. 270 3 0 r0=100 paste r1 r2 120 30 60 flow cone 70 240 60 Fig. 7. for instance. the J-ring and others. for practical reasons a short funnel time is required. Funnel time [sec] 9-25 5-9 3-5 Slump flow 1 2 3 Consistency classes 4 > 470-570 540-660 630-800 [mm] Self Compacting Concrete Fig. The slump flow is again used as an important characteristic. . In this way for the “family of SCC’s” nine sub-classes are obtained. Japanese tools to measure the rheological properties of SCC in the fresh state: the cone (left) and the funnel (right). like the L-box. a large slump flow in combination with a low funnel time (high viscosity) is most appropriate. Reports on the results of this research will be given elsewhere at this conference. If. the Orimet. Extension of conventional consistency classes with SCC.Fig. however. according to a Dutch proposal. Of course there are many other ways to define the rheological properties of a self compacting concrete. In addition to that. a column with congested reinforcement has to be cast. For any application a most appropriate sub-class exists. self compacting concrete is specified for a lightly reinforced wide floor. 6. 7.

the reduction of dust (quartzite!) in the air due to vibration . For the precast concrete industry this is not a considerable difficulty.the reduction of wear to the formwork . 8. it was pointed out that self compacting concrete mixtures are sensitive to variations in composition and environmental influences.the substantial reduction of the noise level .the absence of vibration . defined using the criteria funnel time and flow diameter.the omission of the expensive mechanical vibrators . since the processes at the plant can be very well controlled. Areas of application of SCC in relation to optimum rheological properties.the possibility to produce elements with high architectural quality . APPLICATIONS IN THE PRECAST CONCRETE INDUSTRY Previously. The advantages for using SCC in precast concrete plants are very considerable like. .the energy saving .the use of less robust formwork with simpler connections .the reduction of absence for illness .Funnel time (sec) 9-25 Ramps High & Slender 5-9 Walls 3-5 Floors 5 470-570 6 540-660 7 630-800 Consistency class Slump flow (mm) Fig.

the wall can be made of other materials than timber. Due to that. So. Fig. the stadium of soccer club Ajax.5m. Fig. The concrete strength class is C55 (characteristic cylinder compressive strength of 55 MPa (7850 psi)). 9 shows an example of an architectural balcony element of SCC. the formwork would have had to be replaced after a relatively small number of casts. The metro station has a length of 350m with 4 tracks. Rubber joint sealings can be omitted. heavy vibrating machines would have been necessary. This means that 60 girders had to be produced with a total length of 1. like polystyrene. Fig. Also steel formwork with magnetic couplers is possible. it has also a homogeneous white color. The time for demoulding and re-installing the formwork has been reduced by 50%. Installations with an age of say 5-10 years are generally suitable. The girder has a length of 22. So. not all cement producers supply a constant quality. fillers and the third generation of superplasticizers. The element does not only show a beautiful shape with very sharp profiles. like sand. gravel. since by virtue of SCC no leakage through the joints occurs anymore. 9. have a constant quality . Architectural element of SCC Fig. Moreover. By virtue of the use of SCC the life of the formwork was very long. If the girder would have been compacted in the traditional way. The step from a traditional concrete production to the production of SCC is not a big one. 10.For the production of SCC successful production of SCC it is essential that the basic constituents. . As a result of the introduction of SCC the formwork is hardly loaded anymore: it has only a retaining function. 10 shows the assembly of a precast prestressed concrete girder of SCC for the new metro station at the Amsterdam Arena. Further to the traditional equipment a high intensity mixing machine and an installation to dose the fillers are needed. Large prestressed SCC girder for metro station in Amsterdam. This is not always the case. There is no need for the installation of vibration isolators anymore.4 km. Another important reason to choose for SCC was the improvement of the labor conditions in the factory. there should be good agreements between the concrete producers and the suppliers of the constituents on the quality control.

12 shows a number of concrete arches. which has cost consequences. Since mechanical compaction was not necessary anymore 12 further minutes were gained. with a foam core.Fig. . This means that the formwork was forced to repeatedly fall down from a height of 50mm (2 inches). APPLICATIONS OF SCC IN SITU The introduction of SCC for in-situ applications was slower than in the precast concrete industry. There are a number of reasons for this: . Producing such an element with conventional concrete does not make sense. In a number of practical applications the concrete strength was therefore higher than actually necessary.5 minutes to 1. . and therefore too costly. 11 shows a set of foundation piles. which created a shock effect. since the foam core would move due to vibration. Until recently the piles were produced with the so-called shock procedure. Concrete arches made of SCC Fig.in case of failure the consequences for an in-situ application are much more severe than in the precast concrete industry. 11. Fig. For an average length of 15m a total production length of 1000 km a year is obtained. A production in parts could be an alternative but is by far too time consuming.There was often no agreement on the way in which the properties at the building site have to be controlled. 12.5 minutes. For many applications a concrete strength class C25 is sufficient. Foundation piles of SCC Fig. energy consumption and wear. it is clear that SCC yields considerable advantages. some even for 100%. The production of such type of piles in the firm was 70 000 piles a year. With SCC perfect elements could be made. whereas in the first case demolition might be the ultimate consequence. Taking also into account the advantages with regard to the reduction of noise and dust. By virtue of the change to SCC the necessary casting time was reduced from 7. .Self compacting properties can be more easily reached with higher strength than with lower concrete strength. The cross section has a box-shape. Meanwhile many precast concrete firms have changed their production to SCC. Every arch has a length of 65 meter and is composed of 5 pieces of 13m. In the latter case the unsuitable elements can be simply rejected.

a glued segmental bridge in The Netherlands. So. 14 shows the interior of the City and County Museum in Lincoln. Fig. City and County Museum. Lincoln. where SCC proved to be the best solution for the sloping roof slabs. which.However. in spite of the complicated and congested reinforcement [6]. During the years the bridge deck was renovated several times. The first application of SCC in The Netherlands according to modern principles was such an example. There are many practical problems where SCC gives a suitable solution. Nevertheless. SCC façade in The Hague. Fig. 13. UK. Meanwhile. Furthermore qualifying test methods have been evaluated. but the old deck was often not totally removed. A difficulty was the provision of the deviators inside the box girder. or are being. The Netherlands Fig. was provided with fine triangular ribs with a side length of 8mm. a lot of barriers have. There is now a better insight into the required properties of SCC for particular applications. the joints between the segments opened. for architectural reasons. At the time of retrofitting in the year 2002 the bridge was 45 years old. Since as well the traffic load had increased. 14. Therefore it was decided to increase the load bearing capacity by external prestressing. finally the bridge deck was 180mm thick in stead of 50mm. The architect required a formed finish for the top surface and specified SCC which not only reached those parts where other concretes could not come. 13. In 1998 a large façade was made for the National Theatre in The Hague. In this case Fig. An example is the retrofitting of the Ketelbridge. especially for the lower strengths classes it is more difficult to obtain robust and reliable self compacting concrete’s. 8. Finally a new generation of superplasticizers has been introduced. a number of convincing examples exist. like previously shown in Fig. UK. can give excellent results. but gave as well a consistent high quality finish to both sides of the slab. Because the lower flange of the girder had not been . removed. an SCC with relatively high flowability was used (flow diameter 730mm) and a low viscosity (funnel time 8-9 seconds). however. if applied in an appropriate way. which proof that SCC.

After the elements had been coupled under water. The concrete strength class was C35. In order to facilitate easy demolishing. the walls were demolished. casting concrete inside the girder was no realistic option. For casting the concrete between the tunnel walls through small windows in the formwork SCC appeared to the most appropriate solution. 15 Remote casting of a wall with openings in the interior of a box girder bridge for creating deviation points for additional external prestressing tendons. . aiming at increasing the bearing capacity (Ketelbridge in The Netherlands. Fig. and the SCC was cast from the outside through a little window in the upper flange. 15). Those end walls had a temporary character and served only for enabling floating transport and submerging. Fig. Casting the end wall of an element for a submerged tunnel in SCC. Another interesting case for which SCC gave a solution was the provision of the end walls in elements for a submerged tunnel. By a suitable use of the rheological properties an excellent result was obtained. The formwork with the reinforcement was built up in the interior of the girder (Fig. As a solution therefore SCC was used.designed for the transport of heavy materials. even regardless of the technological difficulties involved. 2002). SCC in a strength class C20 was used. 16.

At the horizontal axes the fiber type (aspect ratio/length) and the mixture type (with the sand/gravel vol. He proved that self compacting fiber concretes are very well possible.SPECIAL SELF COMPACTING CONCRETES A remarkable development occurred with regard to the workability of fiber reinforced concrete. if the right combination of fibers and mixture composition is chosen. even up to fiber contents of 140 kg/m3. Maximum fiber content for SCC in dependence of fiber type and mixture composition Fig. in strength class C115. For a very long period it was noted that the addition of fibers to concrete decreased the workability. a round shape and a homogeneous fiber distribution). 19. Self-compacting concrete. 17 shows the maximum possible fiber content for which mixtures are still self-compacting (defined as having a flow circle with a diameter of at least 600mm. ratio) are given.5) 80/60 Reference mixture Fig. Fig. However.5) Mix 2 (57/39.0) Mix 3 (68/36.0) Mix 1 (57/36. in his PhD-thesis Grünewald [7] showed that this is not necessary at all. Fig. with 125 kg/m3 fibers. 18. 17. Testing the flowability of a high performance fiber reinforced concrete C200 . 140 120 100 Fibre content [kg/m3] 80 60 40 20 0 45/30 Fibre type 65/40 80/30 Mix 4 (68/39. At the vertical axis the fiber content in kg/m3 is given.

Lightweight aggregate particle with skin of with cement paste [9]. the storage of the freshly enveloped aggregates preventing them from sticking together is assured and finally after a rapid setting a high density and strength of the formed envelope is guaranteed. which in the section is distinctly recognizable by its lighter color. The concrete had an average cube strength of about 180 MPa (25000 psi). The lightweight aggregate particles are porous and therefore influence the mixture composition by sucking water from the mixture in the fresh state. NEEDS FOR FURTHER DEVELOPMENT . is equal on the average to approximately 0. Self compacting properties would even increase the attractiveness of such a material. After that.Fig.3mm. A solution was developed by Müller [9]. The result is that concrete mixtures with enveloped lightweight aggregate behave with respect to the characteristics and processing of fresh concrete exactly like mixtures with dense. It contained 235 kg/m3 steel fibers 20/0. It was used in a factory to produce prestressed beams for a bridge.and prestressing steel and foundations. where the thickness of the cement bonded layer. In another paper at this conference the topic of optimizing the self-compacting properties of fiber concrete is treated more in detail [8]. The composition of the cement pastes used for the enveloping is optimized in such a way as to make it economically possible to apply a thin layer to the agglomerate in the fresh state. Compared to non-enveloped aggregates. Another interesting option is self-compacting lightweight concrete. normal weight additive material.25-0. 20 shows an enveloped lightweight aggregate particle of the type Liapor F5. there is a major difficulty. Further information on this topic is found in [10]. 20. He developed a technology which consists of enveloping the sucking aggregates with a thin cement bonded surface coating. Fig. Fig. 19 shows the measurement of the flowability of an ultra high performance fiber reinforced concrete in a U shaped formwork. As self compacting concrete is sensitive to the right composition this causes a major difficulty.35 mm. With regard to the production technology. water absorption by dry materials is drastically reduced if the dry materials are stored for 30 minutes in water and under a pressure of 50 bars and if a low or high performance and thus denser lightweight aggregate is used. 18 gives an impression of the excellent flowing properties during casting of a concrete with 125 kg/m3 fibers. High performance lightweight concrete could allow significant savings in reinforcing. Fig.

Takada [12] showed in his PhD-thesis that there is a strong influence of the type of superplasticizer on the necessary mixing time and mixing intensity. . self compacting (or – consolidating) concrete has confirmed itself as a revolutionary step forward in concrete technology. carbonation and frost-thaw cycles. Furthermore the role of (combinations of) additives (superplasticizers. In this respect special attention has to be devoted to the average and low strength concrete’s used in in-situ structures. 4. Cost comparisons should always be made on the basis of integral costs. it is necessary that SCC’s are designed (tailormade) for any particular case. In this area there is still a need for further research. including porosity and permeability should get due attention. This means that increased demands will be raised on the resistance of SCC with regard to chloride ingress. 2. CONCLUSIONS 1. Also the further development of suitable superplasticizers for SCC is worthwhile. if exposed to more severe environmental conditions. A very important aspect to be regarded is the durability of SCC. General rules are available on the basis of experience. deserves further attention. However.The sensitivity of SCC mixtures for minor variations in the mixture composition should be decreased. not yet fully explored possibility is the use of viscosity agents. but as well – and with the same importance .for service life. Experiments on mixtures with viscosity agents show that the sensitivity of for instance variations of the water content on the viscosity can be strongly reduced by applying an appropriate viscosity agent. suitable for large scale in-situ applications. air entraining agents. Especially the potential of viscosity agents for improving the stability of mixtures with low and medium strength. This holds particularly true for in-situ concrete’s. 3. with medium and low strengths. This can be done by adding appropriate types and amount of fillers. possibly in combination with viscosity agents. There is a considerable future for self compacting fiber reinforced concretes 5. Grünewald [11]. For the application of SCC in situ. There is a tendency that in the near future structures should not only be designed for safety (ULS) and serviceability (SLS). The most important task for research is to develop SCC’s with decreased sensitivity to variations in constituents and environmental influences. in spite of the slightly higher material price. Another. It was shown by many research projects that SCC is approximately equivalent to conventional concretes with regard to the majority of its mechanical properties in the hardened state. see f. In spite of its short history. viscosity agents) on the microstructure. with regard to the microstructure of hardened SCC and its significance to durability there are still quite a number of open questions. In this respect the interface between matrix and aggregates plays an important role.i. that SCC in precast concrete plants can be more economically produced than conventional concretes. It can be shown by cost analysis.

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