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1930s vibrated concrete, manufactured in Croydon and installed by the LMS railway after an Art Deco refurbishment in Meols, United Kingdom.
Concrete plant facility (background) with concrete delivery trucks.

Concrete is a construction material composed of cement (commonly Portland cement) as well as other cementitious materials such as fly ash and slag cement, aggregate (generally a coarse aggregate such as gravel, limestone, or granite, plus a fine aggregate such as sand), water, and chemical admixtures. The word concrete comes from the Latin word "concretus" (meaning compact or condensed), the past participle of "concresco", from "com-" (together) and "cresco" (to grow).

Concrete solidifies and hardens after mixing with water and placement due to a chemical process known as hydration. The water reacts with the cement, which bonds the other components together, eventually creating a stone-like material. Concrete is used to make pavements, pipe, architectural structures, foundations, motorways/roads, bridges/overpasses, parking structures, brick/block walls and footings for gates, fences and poles.

Concrete is used more than any other man-made material in the world.[1] As of 2006, about 7.5 cubic kilometres of concrete are made each year—more than one cubic metre for every person on Earth.[2] Concrete powers a US $35-billion industry which employs more than two million workers in the United States alone.[citation needed] More than 55,000 miles (89,000 km) of highways in the United States are paved with this material. Reinforced concrete and prestressed concrete are the most widely used modern kinds of concrete functional extensions.


Outer view of the Roman Pantheon, still the largest unreinforced solid concrete dome to this day[3]
Opus caementicium laying bare on a tomb near Rome. In contrast to modern concrete structures, the concrete walls of Roman buildings were covered, usually with brick or stone.

Concrete has been used for construction in various ancient civilizations.[4] An analysis of ancient Egyptian pyramids have shown that concrete was employed in their construction.[5]

During the Roman Empire, Roman concrete (or Opus caementicium) was made from quicklime, pozzolanic ash/pozzolana, and an aggregate of pumice. Its widespread use in many Roman structures, a key event in the history of architecture termed the Concrete Revolution, freed Roman construction from the restrictions of stone and brick material and allowed for revolutionary new designs both in terms of structural complexity and dimension.[6]

Concrete, as the Romans knew it, was in effect a new and revolutionary material. Laid in the shape of arches, vaults and domes, it quickly hardened into a rigid mass, free from many of the internal thrusts and strains which trouble the builders of similar structures in stone or brick.[7]

Modern tests show Opus caementicium to be as strong as modern Portland cement concrete in its compressive strength (ca. 200 kg/cm2).[8] However, due to the absence of reinforced steel, its tensile strength was far lower and its mode of application was also different:

Modern structural concrete differs from Roman concrete in two important details. First, its mix consistency is fluid and homogeneous, allowing it to be poured into forms rather than requiring hand-layering together with the placement of aggregate, which, in Roman practice, often consisted of rubble. Second, integral reinforcing steel gives modern concrete assemblies great strength in tension, whereas Roman concrete could depend only upon the strength of the concrete bonding to resist tension.[9]

The widespread use of concrete in many Roman structures has ensured that many survive to the present day. The Baths of Caracalla in Rome are just one example of the longevity of concrete, which allowed the Romans to build this and similar structures across the Roman Empire. Many Roman aqueducts and Roman bridges have masonry cladding to a concrete core, a technique they used in structures such as the Pantheon, the dome of which is concrete.

The secret of concrete was lost for 13 centuries until 1756, when the British engineer John Smeaton pioneered the use of hydraulic lime in concrete, using pebbles and powdered brick as aggregate. Portland cement was first used in concrete in the early 1840s. This version of history has been challenged however, as the Canal du Midi was constructed using concrete in 1670.[10]

Recently, the use of recycled materials as concrete ingredients is gaining popularity because of increasingly stringent environmental legislation. The most conspicuous of these is fly ash, a by-product of coal-fired power plants. This has a significant impact by reducing the amount of quarrying and landfill space required, and, as it acts as a cement replacement, reduces the amount of cement required to produce a solid concrete.

Concrete additives have been used since Roman and Egyptian times, when it was discovered that adding volcanic ash to the mix allowed it to set under water. Similarly, the Romans knew that adding horse hair made concrete less liable to crack while it hardened, and adding blood made it more frost-resistant.[11]

In modern times, researchers have experimented with the addition of other materials to create concrete with improved properties, such as higher strength or electrical conductivity.


Cement and sand ready to be mixed.

There are many types of concrete available, created by varying the proportions of the main ingredients below. By varying the proportions of materials, or by substitution for the cemetitious and aggregate phases, the finished product can be tailored to its application with varying strength, density, or chemical and thermal resistance properties.

The mix design depends on the type of structure being built, how the concrete will be mixed and delivered, and how it will be placed to form this structure.


Portland cement is the most common type of cement in general usage. It is a basic ingredient of concrete, mortar, and plaster. English masonry worker Joseph Aspdin patented Portland cement in 1824; it was named because of its similarity in colour to Portland limestone, quarried from the English Isle of Portland and used extensively in London architecture. It consists of a mixture of oxides of calcium, silicon and aluminium. Portland cement and similar materials are made by heating limestone (a source of calcium) with clay, and grinding this product (called clinker) with a source of sulfate (most commonly gypsum). The manufacture of Portland cement creates about 5 percent of human CO2 emissions.[12]


Combining water with a cementitious material forms a cement paste by the process of hydration. The cement paste glues the aggregate together, fills voids within it, and allows it to flow more freely.

Less water in the cement paste will yield a stronger, more durable concrete; more water will give an freer-flowing concrete with a higher slump.[13]

Impure water used to make concrete can cause problems when setting or in causing premature failure of the structure.

Hydration involves many different reactions, often occurring at the same time. As the reactions proceed, the products of the cement hydration process gradually bond together the individual sand and gravel particles, and other components of the concrete, to form a solid mass.


Cement chemist notation: C3S + H → C-S-H + CH
Standard notation: Ca3SiO5 + H2O → (CaO)·(SiO2)·(H2O)(gel) + Ca(OH)2
Balanced: 2Ca3SiO5 + 7H2O → 3(CaO)·2(SiO2)·4(H2O)(gel) + 3Ca(OH)2


Fine and coarse aggregates make up the bulk of a concrete mixture. Sand, natural gravel and crushed stone are mainly used for this purpose. Recycled aggregates (from construction, demolition and excavation waste) are increasingly used as partial replacements of natural aggregates, while a number of manufactured aggregates, including air-cooled blast furnace slag and bottom ash are also permitted.

Decorative stones such as quartzite, small river stones or crushed glass are sometimes added to the surface of concrete for a decorative "exposed aggregate" finish, popular among landscape designers.


Installing rebar in a floor slab during a concrete pour

Concrete is strong in compression, as the aggregate efficiently carries the compression load. However, it is weak in tension as the cement holding the aggregate in place can crack, allowing the structure to fail. Reinforced concrete solves these problems by adding either steel reinforcing bars, steel fibers, glass fiber, or plastic fiber to carry tensile loads.

Chemical admixtures

Chemical admixtures are materials in the form of powder or fluids that are added to the concrete to give it certain characteristics not obtainable with plain concrete mixes. In normal use, admixture dosages are less than 5% by mass of cement, and are added to the concrete at the time of batching/mixing.[14] The most common types of admixtures[15] are:

  • Accelerators speed up the hydration (hardening) of the concrete. Typical materials used are CaCl2 and NaCl. However, use of chlorides may cause corrosion in steel reinforcing and is prohibited in some countries.
  • Retarders slow the hydration of concrete, and are used in large or difficult pours where partial setting before the pour is complete is undesirable. Typical polyol retarder is sugar,sucrose,sodium gluconate,glucose,citric acid,tartaric acid and etc.
  • Air entrainments add and entrain tiny air bubbles in the concrete, which will reduce damage during freeze-thaw cycles thereby increasing the concrete's durability. However, entrained air is a trade-off with strength, as each 1% of air may result in 5% decrease in compressive strength.
  • Plasticizers/superplasticizers (water-reducing admixtures) increase the workability of plastic or "fresh" concrete, allowing it be placed more easily, with less consolidating effort.Typical plasticizers are liginsulfate,polyol type. Alternatively, plasticizers can be used to reduce the water content of a concrete (and have been called water reducers due to this application) while maintaining workability. This improves its strength and durability characteristics.Superplasticizers (high-range water-reducing admixtures) are a class of plasticizers which have fewer deleterious effects when used to significantly increase workability, representative superplasticizers are sulfonated naphthalene formaldehyde condensate,sulfonated melamine formaldehy condensate and acetone formaldehyde condensate, etc.,more advanced superplasticizer is polycarboxylate type.
  • Pigments can be used to change the color of concrete, for aesthetics.
  • Corrosion inhibitors are used to minimize the corrosion of steel and steel bars in concrete.
  • Bonding agents are used to create a bond between old and new concrete.
  • Pumping aids improve pumpability, thicken the paste, and reduce separation and bleeding.

Mineral admixtures and blended cements

Blocks of concrete in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

There are inorganic materials that also have pozzolanic or latent hydraulic properties. These very fine-grained materials are added to the concrete mix to improve the properties of concrete (mineral admixtures),[14] or as a replacement for Portland cement (blended cements).[16]

  • Fly ash: A by product of coal fired electric generating plants, it is used to partially replace Portland cement (by up to 60% by mass). The properties of fly ash depend on the type of coal burnt. In general, silicious fly ash is pozzolanic, while calcareous fly ash has latent hydraulic properties.[17]
  • Ground granulated blast furnace slag (GGBFS or GGBS): A by-product of steel production is used to partially replace Portland cement (by up to 80% by mass). It has latent hydraulic properties.[18]
  • Silica fume: A by-product of the production of silicon and ferrosilicon alloys. Silica fume is similar to fly ash, but has a particle size 100 times smaller. This results in a higher surface to volume ratio and a much faster pozzolanic reaction. Silica fume is used to increase strength and durability of concrete, but generally requires the use of superplasticizers for workability.[19]
  • High reactivity Metakaolin (HRM): Metakaolin produces concrete with strength and durability similar to concrete made with silica fume. While silica fume is usually dark gray or black in color, high reactivity metakaolin is usually bright white in color, making it the preferred choice for architectural concrete where appearance is important.

Concrete production

The processes used vary dramatically, from hand tools to heavy industry, but result in the concrete being placed where it cures into a final form.

When initially mixed together, Portland cement and water rapidly form a gel, formed of tangled chains of interlocking crystals. These continue to react over time, with the initially fluid gel often aiding in placement by improving workability. As the concrete sets, the chains of crystals join up, and form a rigid structure, gluing the aggregate particles in place. During curing, more of the cement reacts with the residual water (hydration).

This curing process develops physical and chemical properties. Among other qualities, mechanical strength, low moisture permeability, and chemical and volumetric stability.

Mixing concrete

Cement being mixed with sand and water to form concrete.

Thorough mixing is essential for the production of uniform, high quality concrete. Therefore, equipment and methods should be capable of effectively mixing concrete materials containing the largest specified aggregate to produce uniform mixtures of the lowest slump practical for the work. Separate paste mixing has shown that the mixing of cement and water into a paste before combining these materials with aggregates can increase the compressive strength of the resulting concrete.[20] The paste is generally mixed in a high-speed, shear-type mixer at a w/cm (water to cement ratio) of 0.30 to 0.45 by mass. The cement paste premix may include admixtures such as accelerators or retarders, plasticizers, pigments, or silica fume. The latter is added to fill the gaps between the cement particles. This reduces the particle distance and leads to a higher final compressive strength and a higher water impermeability.[21] The premixed paste is then blended with aggregates and any remaining batch water, and final mixing is completed in conventional concrete mixing equipment.[22]

High-energy mixed concrete (HEM concrete) is produced by means of high-speed mixing of cement, water and sand with net specific energy consumption at least 5 kilojoules per kilogram of the mix. It is then added to a plasticizer admixture and mixed after that with aggregates in conventional concrete mixer. This paste can be used itself or foamed (expanded) for lightweight concrete.[23] Sand effectively dissipates energy in this mixing process. HEM concrete fast hardens in ordinary and low temperature conditions, and possesses increased volume of gel, drastically reducing capillarity in solid and porous materials. It is recommended for precast concrete in order to reduce quantity of cement, as well as for concrete roof and siding tiles, paving stones and lightweight concrete block production.


Pouring a concrete floor for a commercial building, (slab-on-ground)

Workability is the ability of a fresh (plastic) concrete mix to fill the form/mold properly with the desired work (vibration) and without reducing the concrete's quality. Workability depends on water content, aggregate (shape and size distribution), cementitious content and age (level of hydration), and can be modified by adding chemical admixtures. Raising the water content or adding chemical admixtures will increase concrete workability. Excessive water will lead to increased bleeding (surface water) and/or segregation of aggregates (when the cement and aggregates start to separate), with the resulting concrete having reduced quality. The use of an aggregate with an undesirable gradation can result in a very harsh mix design with a very low slump, which cannot be readily made more workable by addition of reasonable amounts of water.

Workability can be measured by the concrete slump test, a simplistic measure of the plasticity of a fresh batch of concrete following the ASTM C 143 or EN 12350-2 test standards. Slump is normally measured by filling an "Abrams cone" with a sample from a fresh batch of concrete. The cone is placed with the wide end down onto a level, non-absorptive surface. It is then filled in three layers of equal volume, with each layer being tamped with a steel rod in order to consolidate the layer. When the cone is carefully lifted off, the enclosed material will slump a certain amount due to gravity. A relatively dry sample will slump very little, having a slump value of one or two inches (25 or 50 mm). A relatively wet concrete sample may slump as much as eight inches.

Slump can be increased by adding chemical admixtures such as mid-range or high-range water reducing agents (super-plasticizers) without changing the water-cement ratio. It is bad practice to add water on-site which exceeds the water-cement ratio of the mix design, however in a properly designed mixture it is important to reasonably achieve the specified slump prior to placement as design factors such as air content, internal water for hydration/strength gain, etc. are dependent on placement at design slump values.

High-flow concrete, like self-consolidating concrete, is tested by other flow-measuring methods. One of these methods includes placing the cone on the narrow end and observing how the mix flows through the cone while it is gradually lifted.

Concrete pump
A concrete transport truck is feeding concrete to a concrete pumper, which is pumping it to where a slab is being poured.

After mixing, concrete is a fluid and can be pumped to where it is needed.


A concrete slab ponded while curing.
Concrete columns curing while wrapped in plastic.

In all but the least critical applications, care needs to be taken to properly cure concrete, and achieve best strength and hardness. This happens after the concrete has been placed. Cement requires a moist, controlled environment to gain strength and harden fully. The cement paste hardens over time, initially setting and becoming rigid though very weak, and gaining in strength in the days and weeks following. In around 3 weeks, over 90% of the final strength is typically reached, though it may continue to strengthen for decades.[24]

Hydration and hardening of concrete during the first three days is critical. Abnormally fast drying and shrinkage due to factors such as evaporation from wind during placement may lead to increased tensile stresses at a time when it has not yet gained significant strength, resulting in greater shrinkage cracking. The early strength of the concrete can be increased by keeping it damp for a longer period during the curing process. Minimizing stress prior to curing minimizes cracking. High early-strength concrete is designed to hydrate faster, often by increased use of cement which increases shrinkage and cracking.

During this period concrete needs to be in conditions with a controlled temperature and humid atmosphere. In practice, this is achieved by spraying or ponding the concrete surface with water, thereby protecting concrete mass from ill effects of ambient conditions. The pictures to the right show two of many ways to achieve this, ponding – submerging setting concrete in water, and wrapping in plastic to contain the water in the mix.

Properly curing concrete leads to increased strength and lower permeability, and avoids cracking where the surface dries out prematurely. Care must also be taken to avoid freezing, or overheating due to the exothermic setting of cement (the Hoover Dam used pipes carrying coolant during setting to avoid damaging overheating). Improper curing can cause scaling, reduced strength, poor abrasion resistance and cracking.


Concrete has relatively high compressive strength, but significantly lower tensile strength, and as such is usually reinforced with materials that are strong in tension (often steel). The elasticity of concrete is relatively constant at low stress levels but starts decreasing at higher stress levels as matrix cracking develops. Concrete has a very low coefficient of thermal expansion, and as it matures concrete shrinks. All concrete structures will crack to some extent, due to shrinkage and tension. Concrete which is subjected to long-duration forces is prone to creep.

Tests can be made to ensure the properties of concrete correspond to specifications for the application.

Environmental concerns

For the environmental impact of cement production see Cement

Worldwide CO2 emissions and global change

The cement industry is one of two primary producers of carbon dioxide (CO2), creating up to 5 percent of worldwide emissions of this gas. The embodied carbon dioxide (ECO2) of a tonne of concrete varies with mix design and is in the range of: 75–176 kg CO2/tonne 0.075 - 0.176 tonne CO2/tonne[25] Cement manufacture contributes greenhouse gases both directly through the production of carbon dioxide when calcium carbonate is heated, producing lime and carbon dioxide[26], and also indirectly through the use of energy, particularly if the energy is sourced from fossil fuels. The cement industry produces 5% of global man-made CO2 emissions, of which 50 % is from the chemical process, and 40 % from burning fuel.[27]

CO2 uptake by concrete in the Biosphere 2 project building

A deficit of CO2 was observed in the mass balance of the gases in the closed atmosphere environments of the Biosphere 2 project. It was found that the respiration rate was faster than the photosynthesis resulting in a slow decrease of oxygen. An unresolved question accompanied the oxygen decline: the corresponding increase in carbon dioxide did not appear in the mass balance calculations. This concealed the underlying process until an investigation by Severinghaus et al. (1994) of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory using isotopic analysis showed that carbon dioxide was reacting with exposed concrete inside Biosphere 2 to form calcium carbonate, thereby sequestering the carbon dioxide.[28][29] After being poured, concrete can absorb CO2 for up to 5 years until fully cured.

Surface runoff

Surface runoff, when water runs off impervious surfaces, such as non-porous concrete, can cause heavy soil erosion. Urban runoff tends to pick up gasoline, motor oil, heavy metals, trash and other pollutants from sidewalks, roadways and parking lots.[30][31] The impervious cover in a typical city sewer system prevents groundwater percolation five times than that of a typical woodland of the same size.[32] A 2008 report by the United States National Research Council identified urban runoff as a leading source of water quality problems.[33]

Urban heat

Both concrete and asphalt are the primary contributors to what is known as the urban heat island effect.

Using light-colored concrete has proven effective in reflecting up to 50% more light than asphalt and reducing ambient temperature.[34] A low albedo value, characteristic of black asphalt, absorbs a large percentage of solar heat and contributes to the warming of cities. By paving with light colored concrete, in addition to replacing asphalt with light-colored concrete, communities can lower their average temperature.[35]

Many U.S. cities show that pavement comprise approximately 30-40% of their surface area.[34] This directly impacts the temperature of the city, as demonstrated by the urban heat island effect. In addition to decreasing the overall temperature of parking lots and large paved areas by paving with light-colored concrete, there are supplemental benefits. One example is 10-30% improved nighttime visibility.[34] The potential of energy saving within an area is also high. With lower temperatures, the demand for air conditioning decreases, saving vast amounts of energy.

Atlanta has tried to mitigate the heat-island effect. City officials noted that when using heat-reflecting concrete, their average city temperature decreased by 6 °F.[36] New York City offers another example. The Design Trust for Public Space in New York City found that by slightly raising the albedo value in their city, beneficial effects such as energy savings could be achieved. It was concluded that this could be accomplished by the replacement of black asphalt with light-colored concrete.[35]

Concrete dust

Building demolition, and natural disasters such as earthquakes often release a large amount of concrete dust into the local atmosphere. Concrete dust was concluded to be the major source of dangerous air pollution following the Great Hanshin earthquake.[37]

Health concerns

The presence of some substances in concrete, including useful and unwanted additives, can cause health concerns. Natural radioactive elements (K, U and Th) can be present in various concentration in concrete dwellings, depending on the source of the raw materials used.[38] Toxic substances may also be added to the mixture for making concrete by unscrupulous makers. Dust from rubble or broken concrete upon demolition or crumbling may cause serious health concerns depending also on what had been incorporated in the concrete.

Concrete handling/safety precautions

Handling of wet concrete must always be done with proper protective equipment. Contact with wet concrete can cause skin burns due to the caustic nature of the mixture of cement and water.

Damage modes

Concrete can be damaged by freezing of trapped water, fire or radiant heat, aggregate expansion, sea water effects, bacterial corrosion, leaching, erosion by fast-flowing water, physical damage and chemical damage (from carbonation, chlorides, sulfates and distillate water).

Concrete repair

Concrete pavement preservation (CPP) and concrete pavement restoration (CPR) are techniques used to manage the rate of pavement deterioration on concrete streets, highways and airports. Without changing concrete grade, this non-overlay method is used to repair isolated areas of distress. CPP and CPR techniques include slab stabilization, full- and partial-depth repair, dowel bar retrofit, cross stitching longitudinal cracks or joints, diamond grinding and joint and crack resealing. CPR methods, developed over the last 40 years, are utilized in lieu of short-lived asphalt overlays and bituminous patches to repair roads. These methods are often less expensive than an asphalt overlay but last three times longer and provide a greener solution.[39]

CPR techniques can be used to address specific problems or bring a pavement back to its original quality. When repairing a road, design data, construction data, traffic data, environmental data, previous CPR activities and pavement condition, must all be taken into account. Pavements repaired using CPR methods usually last 15 years. The methods are described below:

  • Slab stabilization: restores support to concrete slabs by filling small voids that develop underneath the concrete slab at joints, cracks or the pavement edge.
  • Full-depth repairs: fixes cracked slabs and joint deterioration by removing at least a portion of the existing slab and replacing it with new concrete.
  • Partial-depth repairs: corrects surface distress and joint-crack deterioration in the upper third of the concrete slab. Placing a partial-depth repair involves removing the deteriorated concrete, cleaning the patch area and placing new concrete.
  • Dowel Bar Retrofit : consists of cutting slots in the pavement across the joint or crack, cleaning the slots, placing the dowel bars and backfilling the slots with new concrete. Dowel bar retrofits link slabs together at transverse cracks and joints so that the load is evenly distributed across the crack or joint.
  • Cross-stitching longitudinal cracks or joints: repairs low-severity longitudinal cracks. This method adds reinforcing steel to hold the crack together tightly.
  • Diamond grinding: by removing faulting, slab warping, studded tire wear and unevenness resulting from patches, diamond grinding creates a smooth, uniform pavement profile. Diamond grinding reduces road noise by providing a longitudinal texture, which is quieter than transverse textures. The longitudinal texture also enhances surface texture and skid resistance in polished pavements.
  • Joint and crack sealing: minimizes the infiltration of surface water and incompressible material into the joint system. Minimizing water entering the joint reduces sub-grade softening, slows pumping and erosion of the sub-base fines, and may limit dowel-bar corrosion caused by de-icing chemicals.[40]

Concrete recycling

Concrete recycling is an increasingly common method of disposing of concrete structures. Concrete debris was once routinely shipped to landfills for disposal, but recycling is increasing due to improved environmental awareness, governmental laws, and economic benefits.

Concrete, which must be free of trash, wood, paper and other such materials, is collected from demolition sites and put through a crushing machine, often along with asphalt, bricks, and rocks.

Reinforced concrete contains rebar and other metallic reinforcements, which are removed with magnets and recycled elsewhere. The remaining aggregate chunks are sorted by size. Larger chunks may go through the crusher again. Smaller pieces of concrete are used as gravel for new construction projects. Aggregate base gravel is laid down as the lowest layer in a road, with fresh concrete or asphalt placed over it. Crushed recycled concrete can sometimes be used as the dry aggregate for brand new concrete if it is free of contaminants, though the use of recycled concrete limits strength and is not allowed in many jurisdictions. On March 3, 1983, a government funded research team (the VIRL research.codep) approximated that almost 17% of worldwide landfill was by-products of concrete based waste.

Recycling concrete provides environmental benefits, conserving landfill space and use as aggregate reduces the need for gravel mining.

World records

The world record for the largest concrete pour in a single project is the Three Gorges Dam in Hubei Province, China by the Three Gorges Corporation. The amount of concrete used in the construction of the dam is estimated at 21 million cubic yards over 17 years. The previous record was 3.2 million cubic meters held by Itaipu hydropower station in Brazil. [41] [42]

Concrete pumping

The world record for vertical concrete pumping was achieved in India by Schwing Stetter in August 2009.Concrete was pumped to a height of 715m for the construction of the Parbati hydro-electric power project in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh.

Continuous pours

The world record for largest continuously poured concrete raft was achieved in August, 2007 in Abu Dhabi by contracting firm, Al Habtoor-CCC Joint Venture. The pour (a part of the foundation for the Abu Dhabi's Landmark Tower) was 16,000 cubic meters of concrete poured within a two day period.[43] The previous record (close to 10,500 cubic meters) was held by Dubai Contracting Company and achieved March 23, 2007.[44]

The world record for largest continuously poured concrete floor was completed November 8, 1997 in Louisville, Kentucky by design-build firm, EXXCEL Project Management. The monolithic placement consisted of 225,000 square feet of concrete placed within a 30 hour period, finished to a flatness tolerance of FF 54.60 and a levelness tolerance of FL 43.83. This surpassed the previous record by 50% in total volume and 7.5% in total area.[45][46]

Use of concrete in infrastructure

The interior of the Pantheon in the 18th century, painted by Giovanni Paolo Pannini.
The Baths of Caracalla, Rome, Italy, in 2003.

Mass concrete structures

These include gravity dams such as the Itaipu, Hoover Dam and the Three Gorges Dam and large breakwaters. Concrete that is poured all at once in one block (so that there are no weak points where the concrete is "welded" together) is used for tornado shelters.

Concrete textures

When one thinks of concrete, oftentimes the image of a dull, gray concrete wall comes to mind. With the use of form liner, concrete can be cast and molded into different textures and used for decorative concrete applications. Sound/retaining walls, bridges, office buildings and more serve as the optimal canvases for concrete art.

For example, the Pima Freeway/Loop 101 retaining and sound walls in Scottsdale, Arizona, feature desert flora and fauna, a 67-foot lizard and 40-foot cacti along the 8-mile stretch. The project, titled "The Path Most Traveled," is one example of how concrete can be shaped using elastomeric form liner.

Reinforced concrete structures

Reinforced concrete contains steel reinforcing that is designed and placed in structural members at specific positions to cater for all the stress conditions that the member is required to accommodate.

Prestressed concrete structures

Prestressed concrete is a form of reinforced concrete which builds in compressive stresses during construction to oppose those found when in use. This can greatly reduce the weight of beams or slabs, by better distributing the stresses in the structure to make optimal use of the reinforcement.

For example a horizontal beam will tend to sag down. If the reinforcement along the bottom of the beam is prestressed, it can counteract this.

In pre-tensioned concrete, the prestressing is achieved by using steel or polymer tendons or bars that are subjected to a tensile force prior to casting, or for post-tensioned concrete, after casting.

Building with concrete

Concrete is the safest, most durable and sustainable building material. It provides superior fire resistance, gains strength over time and has an extremely long service life. Concrete is the most widely used construction material in the world with annual consumption estimated at between 21 and 31 billion tonnes. Concrete construction minimizes the long-term costs of a building or infrastructure project.

Environmentally sustainable

Building with concrete minimizes the depletion of natural resources. With its 100-year service life, it conserves resources by reducing the need for reconstruction. Its ingredients are cement and readily available natural materials: water, aggregate (sand and gravel or crushed stone). Concrete does not require any CO2 absorbing trees to be cut down. The land required to extract the materials needed to make concrete is only a fraction of that used to harvest forests for lumber.

Concrete absorbs CO2 throughout its lifetime through carbonation, helping reduce its carbon footprint. A recent study [47] indicates that in countries with the most favorable recycling practices, it is realistic to assume that approximately 86% of the concrete is carbonated after 100 years. During this time, the concrete will absorb approximately 57% of the CO2 emitted during the original calcination. About 50% of the CO2 is absorbed within a short time after concrete is crushed during recycling operations.

Concrete is truly a sustainable construction material. It consists of between 7% and 15% cement, its only energy-intensive ingredient. A study [48] comparing the CO2 emissions of several different building materials for construction of residential and commercial buildings found that concrete accounted for 147 kg of CO2 per 1000 kg used, metals accounted for 3000 kg of CO2 and wood accounted for 127 kg of CO2. The quantity of CO2 generated during the cement manufacturing process can be reduced by changing the raw materials used in its manufacture.

A new environmentally friendly blend of cement known as Portland-limestone cement (PLC) is gaining ground all over the world. It contains up to 15% limestone, rather than the 5% in regular Portland cement and results in 10% less CO2 emissions from production with no impact on product performance. Concrete made with PLC performs similarly to concrete made with regular cement and thus PLC-based concrete can be widely used as a replacement. In Europe, PLC-based concrete has replaced about 40% of general use concrete. In Canada, PLC will be included in the National Building Code in 2010. The approval of PLC is still under consideration in the United States.

Energy efficiency

Energy requirements for transportation of concrete are low because it is produced locally from local resources, typically manufactured within 100 kilometers of the job site. Once in place, concrete offers significant energy efficiency over the lifetime of a building [49] . Concrete walls leak air far less than those made of wood-frames. Air leakage accounts for a large percentage of energy loss from a home. The thermal mass properties of concrete increase the efficiency of both residential and commercial buildings. By storing and releasing the energy needed for heating or cooling, concrete's thermal mass delivers year-round benefits by reducing temperature swings inside and minimizing heating and cooling costs. While insulation reduces energy loss through the building envelope, thermal mass uses walls to store and release energy. Modern concrete wall systems use both insulation and thermal mass to create an energy-efficient building. Insulating Concrete Forms (ICFs) are hollow blocks or panels made of insulating foam that are stacked to form the shape of the walls of a building and then filled with reinforced concrete to create the structure.

Fire safety and quality of life

Concrete buildings are more resistant to fire than those constructed using wood or steel frames. Since concrete does not burn and stops fire from spreading, it offers total fire protection for occupants and their property. Concrete reduces the risk of structural collapse and is an effective fire shield, providing safe means of escape for occupants and protection for firefighters. Furthermore, it does not produce any smoke or toxic gases and does not drip molten particles, which can spread fire. Neither heat, flames nor the water used to extinguish a fire seriously affect the structure of concrete walls and floors making repairs after a fire a relatively simple task.

A study was conducted in Sweden by Olle Lundberg on the cost of fire damage associated with larger fires in multi-unit buildings, based on statistics from the insurance association in Sweden (Forsakrings Forbundet). The study was limited to buildings with an insured value greater than €150,000. It covered 125 fires that occurred between 1995 and 2004, about 10% of the fires in multi-family homes, but 56% of the major fires.) The results showed that:

  • the average insurance payout per fire, per unit in wood frame buildings was around five times that of fires in concrete buildings (approximately €50,000 compared with €10,000)
  • a major fire is more than 11 times more likely to develop in a wood-frame house than in one built using concrete
  • among the burned houses, 50% of those made with wood had to be demolished, whereas only 9% of the concrete ones were beyond repair
  • the fire spread to neighbouring apartments in only three of the 55 fires in concrete houses
  • of those 55 fires, 45 were in attics and roofing

Options for non-combustible construction include floors, ceilings and roofs made of cast-in-place and hollow-core precast concrete. For walls, concrete masonry technology and Insulating Concrete Forms (ICFs) are additional options. ICFs are hollow blocks or panels made of fire-proof insulating foam that are stacked to form the shape of the walls of a building and then filled with reinforced concrete to create the structure.

“Fire-wall” tests, in which ICF walls were subjected to a continuous gas flame with a temperature of more than 1000°C for as long as 4 hours showed no significant breaks in the concrete layer or dangerous transmission of heat. In comparison, wood frame walls normally collapse in an hour or less under these conditions. Concrete provides stable compartmentation in large industrial and multi-storey buildings so a fire starting in one section does not spread to others.

Using concrete to construct buildings offers the best possible protection and safety in fires:

  • it does not burn or add to fire load
  • it has high resistance to fire, preventing it from spreading thus reduces resulting environmental pollution
  • it does not produce any smoke, toxic gases or drip molten particles
  • it reduces the risk of structural collapse
  • it provides safe means of escape for occupants and access for firefighters as it is an effective fire shield
  • it is not affected by the water used to put out a fire
  • it is easy to repair after a fire and thus helps residents and businesses recover sooner
  • it resists extreme fire conditions, making it ideal for storage facilities with a high fire load
  • it provides complete fire protection so there is normally no need for additional measures

Concrete also provides the best resistance of any building material to high winds, hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes due to its lateral stiffness which results in minimal horizontal movement. It does not rust, rot or sustain growth of mold and stands up well to the freeze – thaw cycle. As a result of all these benefits, insurance for concrete homes is often 15 to 25 percent lower than for comparable wood frame homes.

Concrete buildings also have excellent indoor air quality with no off-gassing, toxicity and release of volatile organic compounds so they are generally healthier to live in than those made of wood or steel. As it is practically inert and waterproof, concrete does not need volatile organic-based preservatives, special coatings or sealers. Concrete can be easily cleaned with organic, non-toxic substances. Its sound insulating properties make buildings and homes a quiet and comfortable living environment. After accounting for sound passing through windows, a concrete home is about two-thirds quieter than a comparable wood-frame home[50] .

Due to the long life of concrete structures, their impacts on the environment are negligible. Once built, they have minimal maintenance requirements and as a result minimal social disruption. Using concrete reduces construction waste as it is used on an as-required basis, thereby minimizing the waste put into landfills.

Recycling and recyclable

A nearly inert material, concrete is suitable as a medium for recycling waste and industrial byproducts. Fly ash, slag and silica fume are used in making concrete which helps reduce embodied energy, carbon footprint and quantity of landfill materials. The process of making cement also uses waste materials. Tires have high energy content and can supplement coal as fuel in the kiln. Industrial byproducts such as ash from coal combustion, fly ash from power stations as well as mill scale and foundry sand from steel casting provide the silica, calcium, alumina and iron needed for making cement. Even kiln dust, a solid waste generated by cement manufacturing, is often recycled back into the kiln as a raw material. Old concrete that has reached the end of its service life can be recycled and reused as granular fill for road beds.

See also


  1. ^ The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World, by Bjorn Lomborg, p 138.
  2. ^ "Minerals commodity summary - cement - 2007". 2007-06-01. Retrieved 2008-01-16. 
  3. ^ The Roman Pantheon: The Triumph of Concrete
  4. ^ Stella L. Marusin (January 1, 1996), Ancient Concrete Structures, 18, Concrete International, pp. 56–58 
  5. ^ Donald H. Campbell and Robertt L. Folk, "Ancient Egyptian Pyramids--Concrete or Rock", Concrete International 13 (8): 28 & 30–39 
  6. ^ Lancaster, Lynne (2005), Concrete Vaulted Construction in Imperial Rome. Innovations in Context, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0-511-16068-4 
  7. ^ D.S. Robertson: Greek and Roman Architecture, Cambridge, 1969, p. 233
  8. ^ Henry Cowan: The Masterbuilders, New York 1977, p. 56, ISBN 978-0-471-02740-9
  9. ^ Robert Mark, Paul Hutchinson: "On the Structure of the Roman Pantheon", Art Bulletin, Vol. 68, No. 1 (1986), p. 26, fn. 5
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ Fountain, Henry (March 30, 2009). "Concrete Is Remixed With Environment in Mind". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-03-30. 
  13. ^ - Missing File
  14. ^ a b U.S. Federal Highway Administration. "Admixtures". Retrieved 2007-01-25. 
  15. ^ Cement Admixture Association. "CAA". Retrieved 2008-04-02. 
  16. ^ Kosmatka, S.H.; Panarese, W.C. (1988). Design and Control of Concrete Mixtures. Skokie, IL, USA: Portland Cement Association. pp. 17, 42, 70, 184. ISBN 0-89312-087-1. 
  17. ^ U.S. Federal Highway Administration. "Fly Ash". Retrieved 2007-01-24. 
  18. ^ U.S. Federal Highway Administration. "Ground Granulated Blast-Furnace Slag". Retrieved 2007-01-24. 
  19. ^ U.S. Federal Highway Administration. "Silica Fume". Retrieved 2007-01-24. 
  20. ^ Premixed Cement Paste
  21. ^ The use of micro- and nanosilica in concrete
  22. ^ Measuring, Mixing, Transporting, and Placing Concrete
  23. ^ U.S. Patent 5,443,313 - Method for producing construction mixture for concrete
  24. ^ "Concrete Testing". Retrieved 2008-11-10. 
  25. ^
  26. ^ EIA - Emissions of Greenhouse Gases in the U.S. 2006-Carbon Dioxide Emissions
  27. ^ The Cement Sustainability Initiative: Progress report, World Business Council for Sustainable Development, published 2002-06-01
  28. ^ Severinghaus, J.P. , W. Broecker, W. Dempster, T. MacCallum, and M. Wahlen (1994) Oxygen loss in Biosphere 2. EOS, Transactions of the American Geophysical Union, vol. 75, N°. 3, pp. 33, 35-37
  29. ^ Oxygen loss in Biosphere 2
  30. ^ Water Environment Federation, Alexandria, VA; and American Society of Civil Engineers, Reston, VA. "Urban Runoff Quality Management." WEF Manual of Practice No. 23; ASCE Manual and Report on Engineering Practice No. 87. 1998. ISBN 1-57278-039-8. Chapter 1.
  31. ^ G. Allen Burton, Jr., Robert Pitt (2001). Stormwater Effects Handbook: A Toolbox for Watershed Managers, Scientists, and Engineers. New York: CRC/Lewis Publishers. ISBN 0-87371-924-7.  Chapter 2.
  32. ^ U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Washington, DC. "Protecting Water Quality from Urban Runoff." Document No. EPA 841-F-03-003. February 2003.
  33. ^ United States. National Research Council. Washington, DC. "Urban Stormwater Management in the United States." October 15, 2008. pp. 18-20.
  34. ^ a b c "Cool Pavement Report" (PDF). Environmental Protection Agency. June 2005. Retrieved 2009-02-06. 
  35. ^ a b Gore, A; Steffen, A (2008). World Changing: A User's Giode for the 21st Century. New York: Abrams. pp. 258. 
  36. ^ "Concrete facts". Pacific Southwest Concrete Alliance. Retrieved 2009-02-06. 
  37. ^
  38. ^ Radionuclide content of concrete building blocks and radiation dose rates in some dwellings in Ibadan, Nigeria
  39. ^ [1] Minnesota DOT
  40. ^ [2] Airport Business
  41. ^ "Concrete Pouring of Three Gorges Project Sets World Record". 2001-01-04. Retrieved 2009-08-24. 
  42. ^ China’s Three Gorges Dam By The Numbers
  43. ^ [3]
  44. ^ Record concrete pour takes place on Al Durrah
  45. ^ "Continuous cast: Exxcel Contract Management oversees record concrete pour". 1998-03-01. Retrieved 2009-08-25. 
  46. ^ Exxcel Project Management - Design Build, General Contractors -
  47. ^ Nordic Innovation Centre Project 03018
  48. ^ Pentalla, Vesa, Concrete and Sustainable Development, ACI Materials Journal, September- October 1997, American Concrete Institute, Farmington Hills, MI, 1997
  49. ^ Gajda, John, Energy Use of Single Family Houses with Various Exterior Walls, Construction Technology Laboratories Inc, 2001
  50. ^ Wikipedia Article “Sound Transmission Class” citing Cyril M. Harris, "Noise Control in Buildings: A Practical Guide for Architects and Engineers", 1994
  • Matthias Dupke: Textilbewehrter Beton als Korrosionsschutz. Examicus, Frankfurt am Main 2009, ISBN 978-3-86943-336-3.

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Simple English

Concrete is a very useful material for making all sorts of buildings and structures.

File:Concrete pouring
Concrete used to make a building

Its biggest advantage is that it bonds together bricks and stones and post more tightly than any other method known to mankind.

Concrete is as old as 5600 BC, and it was not invented by Romans as it is told.

Some kinds of concrete are waterproof, and some kinds even set underwater.

The ingredients of concrete include the cement, sand, gravel and water in varying proportions depending on the task.

The ingredients are mixed together into a "paste", a bit like making "dough" for bread.

The concrete is then poured into place into formwork, and after a few hours it sets hard.

Since the semi-liquid concrete fills all spaces, a post set into concrete will not wobble.

Concrete is strong in compression but weak in tension, and for some purposes it needs to be reinforced with steel rods. These rods should be galvanised to prevent rusting and corrosion.

Reinforced concrete buildings can be made to link all the parts together, the foundations, walls, floors and roofs, but concrete construction does not make buildings earthquake-proof.

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