Bitumen sustainability and resilience in focus at The Black Art

07 Sep 2023

Alternative materials, technical specialties and sustainability initiatives were in focus at The Black Art 2023 - a full-day technical event for practitioners of the black arts of bitumen construction, held at the Due Drop Events Centre in Manukau on 30 August. 

CCNZ Technical Manager Michelle Farrell said the event was a rich vein of technical bitumen information for contractors and clients alike, with the format of concise 15-minute presentations from industry experts providing fascinating insight into a very technical topic.

“This was a great event to hear about the advances we’re making in bitumen construction in New Zealand and around the world. It’s an industry that is always looking to the next steps, and getting everyone involved from the client and designer to the lab managers and construction crews means the whole industry can see what’s out there.” 

Hundreds of bitumen technical specialists flocked to this year’s event, to hear from speakers including Jan Willem Bulters of Miscancell, who joined the event live from the Netherlands to provide information on the use of naturally grown lignin extracted from locally-grown elephant grass as a sustainable bio-substitute for asphalt binders, to create Grasfalt©, of which more than 100,000m2 has already been laid across Dutch urban asphalt construction sites.

Emergency works, bitumen emulsion and asphalt stabilisation were some of the other topics covered, with international speaker Trevor Distin of Colas Group Australia returning to explore sustainable asphalt practices on low volume roads.Martin Gribble of Stantec presented on road widening methodology, while Nikhil Vishwanath of Road Science took on the challenge of improving resilience through emulsion stabilisation. Industry specifications were also in focus, with Grant Bosma of Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency presenting on updates to M4 and P11 specifications and a panel discussion around what the shift to bitumen emulsion from hot cutback meant for the industry.

It was no surprise that sustainability initiatives featured heavily at an event themed ‘sustainable solutions in changing times’. Mark Cruden of Meyer Cruden Engineering presented on the real carbon footprint of roads, Sarah Lindberg of AECOM explored the connection between sustainability practitioner and pavement engineer and how to get beyond the ‘first date’, while AECOM young presenter Luke Elsen faced up to how the bitumen industry can ride the ‘sustainability tsunami’.

Emergency works also took the stage, with Nick Shilov of Hiways Group looking at delivering emergency works following Cyclone Gabrielle and Clare Dring of Fulton Hogan sharing learnings from the United States. Janus Grove, also of Fulton Hogan took the stage to present on long-term pavement resilience, while his fellow young presenter and Fulton Hogan colleague Annie Ganley presented on future of rheological bitumen testing methodologies. 

The Black Art was organised by Civil Contractors New Zealand, the National Surfacing Technical Group and the National Pavements Technical Group. Founded in 2000 as the Auckland Asphalt Forum, this event has become New Zealand’s national event for technical bitumen specialists. 

The day’s schedule included 17 presentations across four presentation streams, with Dr. Doug Wilson of The University of Auckland taking the stage as event Master of Ceremonies.

The event ended on another highlight as Luke Elsen took home the Young Presenters Award for his entertaining and insightful presentation.

Ms Farrell thanked the event co-hosts the National Pavements Technical Group and National Surfacings Technical Group and this year's sponsors Stantec, Geotechnics, Fulton Hogan, Asco Asphalt, Inforce Global, Green Kiwi, Hiways Group and MacRebur. She said planning was already in the works for next year’s event.

Photos from the 2023 event will be available shortly on the CCNZ Facebook page, and presentations can be downloaded from the event DropBox.





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