Australian formwork material supplier Big River Group has introduced a new extruded PVC permanent wall formwork system designed to deliver significant cost and time savings to the construction industry.

Developed by Robert Rech and Peter Zardo in 2013 and sold in Australia through Big River Group, Permaform is a permanent wall formwork system that is filled with concrete to serve as a structural element.

Traditional methods such as conventional formed concrete, precast concrete and blockwork systems used in the construction industry for loadbearing walls are labour intensive and inflexible. Rech and Zardo combined endevoured to develop a solution that would be sustainable in the current building climate.

According to Rech, the construction industry constantly explores opportunities and initiatives to reduce costs and generate efficiencies through modular and efficient construction that not only yield savings in cost and time, but also positively impact safety, waste, durability, flexibility and sustainability outcomes. He explains that Permaform addresses these needs and delivers a fast and economical formwork solution in standard wall thicknesses of 110, 150 and 200 mm.

The PVC construction results in a lightweight formwork product that simplifies installation compared to traditional brick or concrete walls as there is no need for cranes or other lifting equipment. Permaform’s speed of construction and wall thickness reductions, means builders who have trialled the system have been able to achieve cost savings with less time and labour required on projects, and be more competitive in the market.

Rech explains that labour costs can represent approximately 60 per cent of the overall cost of blockwork or masonry wall construction depending on project scale, location, accessibility and complexity of work. The Permaform system helps reduce the labour component of construction costs since it can be installed by anyone experienced in conventional form-working under the supervision of a qualified builder, eliminating the need to use skilled specific tradespeople who are required for traditional blockwork.

Cost savings are also derived through more refined engineering solutions and the reduction of the required horizontal reinforcing, footing sizes, suspended slab thicknesses and concrete strength as well as reduced level of safety risk and associated costs with lower requirement for tools and equipment.

Permaform permanent formwork can replace nearly all types of vertical formwork used for walls and columns and is suitable for specialised facilities such as hotels, hospital and aged care facilities as well as civil constructions. The highly versatile formwork system can be used in diverse applications including concrete walls, lift shafts and stairwells, shear walls, boundary walls, basement walls, retention tanks, and civil structure walls amongst others.

Permaform is currently being used by Trinity Constructions for a medium density residential project in Kellyville, NSW. The four‐storey, 50-unit dwelling, which features two basements, needed a strong base. Project Manager Ismail Saleh said they use Permaform because it is a solid product that doesn’t need bracing and can be put together and concrete filled in one day.

CYD Formwork is also using Permaform on a high density, large scale 181-unit project as they find it is much faster to install than the plywood they were using earlier; being waterproof, Permaform also saves time and money.

Permaform is available in a standard width of 400mm but can also be made to measure for particular project specifications. Control joints required in conventionally formed concrete walls are an unnecessary component with Permaform as it includes internal diaphragms to act as crack initiators; these produce fine cracks at close centres and are invisible, making Permaform particularly popular amongst medium to high‐density residential builders. Additionally Permaform forms a permanent shell comprising of face sheets connected though closely spaced internal diaphragms, which are interlocked to resist concrete filling pressures.

Permaform can have paint render or other materials easily applied to achieve decorative and architectural finishes.

The formwork system is also performance code compliant and reduces onsite wastage as it is ordered to size. Being impermeable to moisture, it offers a totally waterproof solution.

Designed and produced for Australian conditions, Permaform is compliant with Australian Standards AS3600 Concrete & AS3610 Formwork and satisfies all relevant aspects of the BCA and AS/NZ 3837:1998 fire provisions and acoustic, WH&S and structural integrity.