The simplest way to clarify things is to advise your client that shotcrete is not a product but a process. Shotcreting is a process of installing concrete at a high velocity. Because the concrete is installed at a high velocity, it will have a higher density than conventional concrete in most cases. The increased density will provide reduced permeability and higher durability.
A shotcrete mixture can be designed and proportioned to meet virtually any job requirement. In this case, air entrainment must be specified. Whenever any concrete mixture (shotcrete mixtures included) will be exposed to freezing and thawing while critically saturated, air entrainment must be part of the mixture. The amount of air entrainment required depends on the maximum size of the coarse aggregate used. In general, for a mixture with a maximum-sized coarse aggregate of 3/8 in. (10 mm), the air content should be about 8% as-batched for a severe exposure condition.
Another key to longevity is reduction of permeability. As a mixture becomes denser, the transmission of fluids through the mixture becomes more difficult. This is especially critical when trying to protect reinforcing steel. When chloride ions and oxygen reach reinforcing steel, corrosion is initiated. Increasing the density by using products like silica fume, slag cement, and fly ash dramatically decreases permeability.
Discuss the curing and protection plan with the contractor prior to the start of shotcreting. Failure to cure and protect properly is the most common reason for poor concrete or shotcrete performance.
Another often overlooked element in obtaining an extended type of service life is maintenance of the concrete structure. By periodically cleaning the concrete and applying an appropriate surface sealer, materials that may lead to deterioration are removed from the surface and not allowed to penetrate the pore structure of the concrete.