5 Fascinating Facts About Concrete


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This week’s World of Concrete in Las Vegas is the first major US trade fair since the COVID pandemic changed the face of convention and business meetings. For many, this is another sign that life is slowly returning to normal in the construction industry. If you take a trip to this year’s WOC, you’re looking forward to it all – new products, cutting-edge technologies, interactive workshops, hands-on training, and, no doubt – the Bricklayer 500! This one-hour competition tests the speed and endurance to name the world’s greatest builder. Whether you’re there in person or just too busy in the field to come, we’re sharing in the celebration of all things tangible this week. Here are some weird and wonderful facts about concrete, a strong and versatile material, used on everything from kitchen countertops to the roads we walk on every day. 1. The use of concrete is staggering With more than 10 billion tons of concrete produced annually, concrete is the world’s most consumed material – other than water. With three tons per person in the world used, twice as much concrete is used in construction than all other building materials. In the United States alone, that number is over 500 million tons. Valued at more than $37 billion, the concrete industry employs more than $2 million in the United States. With cement as its main component, it is also responsible for 8% of the world’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. 2. Concrete has come a long way since 600 BC Although the ancient Romans were not the first to mix clay and straw or make mortar, they were the first to use concrete in most of their construction. They succeeded in using a mixture of volcanic ash from Mount Vesuvius, lime and sea water to form the mixture and packaged it in wooden forms. The Roman civil engineer Vitruvius wrote about four types of “pozzolana” – black, gray, red and white. In fact, the Romans understood the waterproof qualities of this new building material, using it to build their port at Cosa. Even more impressive is the Roman Pantheon, which was made entirely of concrete, without structural steel supports. The impressive 142-foot dome still stands today. It is a massive concrete building and has withstood earthquakes and other natural disasters for 2,000 years. 3. Concrete Victory-assisted “sound mirrors” were used at the start of World War II to provide early warning of approaching aircraft. Prior to the development of radar, the British installed parabolic acoustic mirrors or listening ears to detect aircraft. Through a network of sound reflectors set up along the English coast, the British could detect the sound of approaching German planes. Concave concrete structures are designed to pick up sound waves from enemy planes, making it possible to predict their flight path, giving ground forces more time to prepare British defenses. 4. The largest concrete structure in the world is located in China, with a height of 185 meters and a length of 2309 meters. The Three Gorges Dam on China’s Yangtze River is the largest concrete dam. The project was built over 17 years between 1994 and 2006, and cost $37 billion. Workers used about 21 million cubic yards of concrete in the structure – a world record. A hydroelectric plant that can generate 22,500 MW of power, the dam’s reservoir holds as much water as Lake Superior. 5. Concrete furniture? Perhaps not a moment of light Did you know that Thomas Edison holds 49 patents related to concrete? In addition to the invention of the light bulb, Edison’s patents included cement curing equipment, a waterproof cement coating, and even a mold for building monocast concrete. Additionally, Edison envisioned a future with concrete houses, concrete furniture, and even pianos and refrigerators. Edison set up Portland Cement after noticing the amount of waste sand his ore mill company produces. He sold fine grains of sand to cement manufacturers to produce concrete. While these facts and history about making concrete may not help you win at Jeopardy, there is plenty to explore when it comes to this powerful and versatile material. Do you need more leads in the project? ConstructConnect finds you the best construction projects to bid and win more business. Schedule your free trial!


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