Back to the Books: The History of Concrete

Think the history of concrete might be about as interesting as, well, watching concrete set? Think again. As with most things in life, this versatile building material has undergone extensive advancements, upgrades and enhancements as time progressed. And with each iteration, the medium became better equipped to meet people’s needs. Join General Chipping as we step back into the past for a look at concrete’s history — and where it might be headed in the future.

The History of Concrete:

The First Concrete-Like Structures Were in Syria & Jordan
This original concrete contained hydraulic lime, which hardens underwater. Its dry or low-slump blends helped sidestep weaknesses, while tamping increased the amount of bonding agent.

Ancient China Got Creative in its Concrete Blends
Dig into the Great Wall of China or certain ancient buildings, and you’ll find glutenous, sticky rice served as an important ingredient in the country’s mortar.

Roman Concrete Grew Stronger Over Time
The Romans combined volcanic ash, lime and seawater in a way that encouraged growth of aluminum tobermorite. The mineral, known to give concrete strength, fortified structures as time progressed.

Concrete Technology Crept Back for a Bit
When the Roman Empire fell, techniques for creating their pozzolan cement went missing. It wasn’t manuscripts resurfaced in 1414, leading to a resurgence in building with the medium.

Portland Cement is a Relatively New Medium
Joseph Aspdin first created Portland cement in 1824, burning ground chalk and clay in order to remove the carbon dioxide. The finished product got its name because it looked like building stones from Portland, England.

The Only Thing Constant is Change
As technologies continue to advance, modern-day concrete follows suit. Scientists are working day in and day out to create concrete blends that not only stand up against wear and tear, but help solve certain troubles. A company in the United Kingdom, for instance, has created a concrete blend capable of absorbing floodwaters. Meanwhile, “bendable” concrete could be the answer to safer infrastructure. While no one knows exactly what the future holds, the possibilities are exciting!

Sources: Sciencemag.org, Smithsonianmag.com, theconversation.com and the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors


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