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Concrete Canvas is Africa’s housing solution

Our world seems to be on an evolutionary trajectory of simplifying how we live. Instagram, Uber, AirBnB, the list goes on and now there is Concrete-on-a-roll with Concrete Canvas. Who would ever have imagined building could be so easy? A recent interview with Simon Lester, head of Sub Saharan Africa for Concrete Canvas, revealed some remarkable insights to this ground-breaking product with its ever-expanding global footprint, and especially its potential advantages for the African continent.

But firstly, what is Concrete Canvas?

A flexible, concrete impregnated geotextile layer that hardens upon hydration to form a thin, durable, waterproof, fire-resistant concrete mat, and it has revolutionised the world of concrete applications. Once set, the fibres of the geotextile reinforce the concrete, preventing crack propagation and providing a safe plastic failure mode. Essentially, Concrete Canvas is concrete on a roll, and its easy recipe is: simply unroll the mat and add water!

Since its inception in 2004, Concrete Canvas has enjoyed a meteoric rise to its current distribution of 80 countries worldwide. The concept was conceived and developed by young British engineers, William Crawford and Peter Brewis,as a result of a dire need for rapidly deployable shelters to aid humanitarian disaster relief, to be used in conjunction with inflatable formwork shelters. The following year Concrete Canvas Ltd was incorporated to begin commercial development of the shelter concept.

In 2007, the company headquarters relocated to Wales. Once commercial volume production of Concrete Canvas commenced in 2009, it took a mere five years for the millionth square metre to be manufactured. By this time the company was identified as the second fastest growing manufacturer in the UK and received numerous accolades including the Queen’s Award for Innovation in Enterprise and the St David Award for Innovation.

Asked about the benefits Concrete Canvas provided, Lester extolled its many virtues; “Chiefly its sheer speed of installation; it’s at least ten times faster than any conventional alternatives. With an achievable installation rate of 200m2/hr, this equates to an extremely economical solution. It is important to note that since Concrete Canvas cannot be over hydrated, so rainy weather does not delay installation.”

As a composite material, Concrete Canvas provides the advantage of an impermeable layer as well as a hard armour layer all in one application. Supplied in man-portable rolls containing pre-mixed concrete, this innovative product negates the need for heavy plant or mixing equipment, while its low mass and low carbon technology uses up to 95% less material than conventional concrete.

Lester explained that his primary role was to appoint suitable distributors in strategic regions of sub-Saharan Africa. Out 43 African countries, South Africa was identified as the main gateway into the continent, prompting the company in 2015,to choose South Africa’s leading geotextile manufacturer, Kaytech, as a supplier of Concrete Canvas. Since then Concrete Canvas Ltd has signed sales partner agreements with Zambia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Kenya as well as Madagascar, which includes the Indian Ocean Islands.

Concrete Canvas Ltd

Concrete Canvas Ltd undertakes to provide technical support to all distributors and clients alike, as well as installation training and after-market support. Asked how the use of Concrete Canvas could assist emerging contractors, Lester explained; “Since there is a strong focus in South Africa on providing opportunities to Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMME’s), particularly in the construction industry, many projects are awarded to companies lacking financial stature and a good skills base. This is where Concrete Canvas comes to the fore; simple, speedy installation that requires no skilled labour, as well as no need for batching plants, concrete mixers, or other significant on-site overhead costs.”

The considerable amount of time and money saved makes Concrete Canvas the ideal option for SMME’s to impress their clients with top quality, timeously completed projects. In a nutshell, Concrete Canvas provides not only substantial short-term savings but also long-term savings because of its hugely reduced maintenance costs.

Globally, Concrete Canvas is rapidly becoming the material of choice for channel lining where, besides its installation prowess even in limited access applications, the product provides a plethora of aids; excellent weed suppression, reduction/elimination of silt generation, good weathering and UV stability as well as twice the abrasion resistance of standard OPC concrete and excellent chemical resistance. Maintenance is therefore reduced to an absolute minimum.

With further core applications including erosion control, remediation and containment, Lester anticipates Concrete Canvas will prove invaluable to the Mining, Civil and Petrochemical industries. He conceded though that thus far the Petrochemical sector was the slowest to recognize the significant benefits Concrete Canvas provides, such as being ideal for hard armor capping of earth bunds around petrochemical tank farms. “I’m confident though that it is just a matter of time before great inroads are made in this field”, he says.

Forming part of a new category of construction materials called Geosynthetic Cementitious Composite Mats (GCCM’s), Concrete Canvas is a trademark and patent-protected product and although its state-of-the-art technology is closely guarded, the company invests heavily in continuous improvement through research and development. Concrete Canvas continues to win awards worldwide and it is expected that more communities in sub-Saharan Africa will benefit from its exceptional qualities.

Kaytech is the Authorized Supplier of Concrete Canvas in Southern Africa.


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