Concrete is one of the most widely used construction materials and there is a very good reason for this. The invention of concrete material has allowed humanity to greatly advance its building techniques and produce really amazing structures. Massive dams, long bridges, tallest buildings are all possible because of the modern concrete.
Having a concrete technology is like having liquid rock that later becomes and actual rock that you can form to any desired shape and form.
Concrete has been around for a very long time. There has been historical evidence of concrete dwelling structures, underground cisterns and storage containers dating over six thousand years ago. Ancient Romans have built impressive structures out of concrete that survived until the present day.
Modern concrete production become widespread in the 19th century when portland cement has been developed. The invention of reinforced concrete has further popularized concrete a go-to material for large structures. There a numerous interesting buildings made where the structure is made out of reinforced concrete
There are three basic components in the concrete: water, aggregate (stone and sand) and cement. Cement is typically a grey powder and is an essential ingredient because it acts as a binding agent getting concrete to harden. When these three are mixed together the result is a liquid paste that can be shaped as needed.
Adding sugar to concrete mix will delay the setting time. Enough sugar will prevent concrete from setting altogether. White refined sugar works the best!Fun Fact
Concrete has some desired properties while in liquid form as well as when it hardens. The liquid form properties are related to the ease of installation such as slump or a measure of how easy the concrete flows. There are applications when it is desirable to have thick workable mix (low slump) and an almost liquid mix (high slump). The applications of low slump mixes are curbs, road works and foundations; high slump mixes are used for floor leveling, concrete pumping.
Concrete is widely used in almost all types of construction. The most common applications are foundations, walls/columns, slabs, road work and many others. It can be cast in place or precast at the factory and delivered in sections. Concrete is used for small houses and the tallest buildings. It so wide spread that it is difficult to find a modern construction site where no concrete is used.
Concrete is also used in less obvious areas such as man made slabs such as tiles or countertops. The terminology changes somewhat but the process remains the same.
The environmental impacts of concrete use in construction are complex and are constantly being researched. The cement production has high carbon emissions because the cement has to be heated to a very high temperature during the manufacturing stage. The use of concrete over the large paved areas increase the surface runoff which can cause soil erosion and flooding.
Concrete is a material that is often locally sourced and thus typically requires minimal energy to transport to building sites. Rebar for concrete is often produced from recycled steel. At end of life, concrete can be crushed and recycled but the recycled material cannot be used for new building concrete.