The Rise of Concrete
Concrete is the most used material on this planet other than water. Since it is so versatile and durable, it can be used in so many different ways.
Fact 1 - Ancient
The history of concrete dates back to a few thousand years before Christ. The Ancient Romans were the first to develop concrete, or 'pozzolana' as they referred to it, as a building material by mixing lime, water and volcanic ash from Mount Vesuvius. This is a far cry from today's concrete mixture which is usually made from water, aggregate (e.g. gravel or sand), cement and air.
During the Dark Ages (or Early Middle Ages), it was largely forgotten and was only used again once the Middle Ages passed.
The Romans understood the waterproof qualities of this building material and used it to construct their port at Cosa. Even though the port reached its height in 100BC, three of its concrete piers survived which is a complete testament to the engineering know-how of the ancient world.
Fact 2 - Demand
Concrete is used more than any other manmade material on the planet. As of 2006, about 7.5 cubic kilometres of concrete is made each year – this is more than one cubic metre for every person on Earth!
It is projected that the world's demand for cement is to increase by 4.5 % year-on-year which means that by 2019, the world will be consuming about 5.2 metric tonnes of cement.
Fact 3 - Futuristic
Thomas Edison, who invented the lightbulb, held 49 patents related to concrete. He experimented with precast concrete houses filled with concrete furnitures such as pianos and refrigerators. This was an important part of concrete's history since his patents included cement processing equipment, waterproofing cement pain and even a mould for single-pour concrete construction.
Fact 4 - Strong
Built in about 120AD, the Pantheon in Rome is still the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world. Because it is unreinforced, i.e. it has no metal skeleton to strengthen it, it does not comply with modern safety standards.
The Empire State Building which was the tallest structure in the world when it was built, used a massive 62,000 cubic yards of concrete.
Fact 5 – Virtually Indestructible
Whilst concrete doesn't have a melting point, a temperature of a thousand degrees Fahrenheit will decompose the concrete. This means that when the water is evaporated then molten lava is formed.
Concrete is virtually fire-proof. It doesn't burn and can't be set on fire. It doesn't release toxic fumes when it comes into contact with flames. This is the reason why concrete structures and buildings are able to survive a fire when everything around goes up in flames.
Fact 6 – Versatility
The reason why concrete is an excellent material for building roads is because of its high compressive quality. It can be poured to match the shape, design and size of all different types of road. Concrete roads also last longer and require less maintenance making it the most cost-effective and environmentally-friendly choice in the long run.
Fact 7 – Domestic
Concrete is a very popular choice when it comes to high-end countertops, sinks, fireplaces and floors due to its durability and versatility. Concrete floors are an economical way to create an indoor living space a sleek and contemporary look that is both low-maintenance and will take a lifetime of wear and tear.
Since concrete can withstand water with ease, it is also a popular choice for outside furniture.
Fact 8 – Listening Ears
Before the radar was developed during WWII, the British erected parabolic acoustic mirrors – commonly known as 'listening ears' – to detect incoming aircraft. A network of these enormous concrete sound reflectors – which had microphones suspended at the focal point of the dish and a range of up to 27 miles - were constructed along the English coast during the early part of WWII. They can still be seen today.
Fact 9 - Safe
Concrete is safe, secure and healthy for the home. As we touched on earlier, it does not burn and does not give off any toxic fumes. It does not feed rot or mildew and provides an excellent indoor air quality. The quality of the construction means that it helps to stop pollen, dust and other airborne pollutants from entering the home.
Structurally, concrete provides added protection against earthquakes and severe weather due to its solid construction, and it provides superior protection against the effects of outdoor temperature.