When you think about it, our entire infrastructure is assembled with concrete. Our homes, schools, office buildings, roads, and even bridges use concrete in their construction. In fact, it’s the most widely used building material in the world. When you add it up, it is estimated that approximately three tons of concrete is used yearly for each human being on earth. And, it accounts for twice of all other building materials such as wood, plastic, steel, and aluminum combined.
So why is concrete the most widely used building material in the world? To answer that question, we need to go back in time. The Roman Pantheon is one of the most famous structures in the world. The Romans at the time used a mixture of concrete, aggregate, and water to create what is still to this day the largest, unreinforced dome. It is also what was used to build landmark structures such as Hoover Dam, the Panama Canal, and the Empire State Building. Nothing else in history has been as strong, durable, or plentiful as a building material across the globe as concrete.
Different Ways Concrete Has Been Adapted
From the Roman days, builders have added various items to augment the base concrete to fit their needs. In fact, Romans discovered that adding animal blood to concrete made it resistant to frost, and adding horsehair to it made it less prone to cracks. The Chinese added sticky rice to the concrete mixture to improve its performance while constructing the Great Wall. Egyptians learned that adding volcanic ash to the concrete blend allowed it to be formed and set underwater.
Now, as recent as 2014, the mixture of concrete has been manipulated to meet the demands of today’s building needs. The Burj Dubai skyscrapers rely on a special blend of concrete that actually doesn’t harden before it is pumped all the way to the top of the tower, but will ultimately harden to support the structure.
What is the Future of Concrete?
While it is impossible to anticipate what will be next in the evolving use of concrete, we do know that whatever engineering and structural marvels lie ahead in the minds of today and tomorrow’s engineers, it will involve concrete, and more than likely a unique combination to adapt it to the needs of the structure and the people that will use it.
Should castles of our past make a resurgence, or something that marvels the world beyond the world’s tallest skyscraper, the longest span bridge in the world, or a building so vast it takes a vehicle to travel from one side to the other, we know that concrete in its many forms will be there to form the foundation, walls, and possibly a domed roof that surpasses the current record holder.
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