Concrete

3 ways that the introduction of cement and concrete has transformed the construction industry

Concrete seems like a thoroughly modern invention and is a substance that is still heavily used in the construction industry today. However, its origins date back to Egyptian or Roman times. Although it may have be refined and evolved as a building material, the same principles that made it popular in the first place still remain. There are three key ways in which the introduction of cement and concrete transformed the construction industry.

1. New strength and versatility

Although Ancient Egyptians are credited with having invented some of the earliest cement and concrete, it’s the Romans’ concrete about which the most is known. The use of hydraulic lime mortar – also known as Roman Cement – changed the potential for construction by providing a new material that was stronger and more versatile than anything that had gone before. Previous generations of builders had been restricted to materials such as wood – which could be difficult to shape and work with without the right tools  – and bone or animal products, which often lacked strength and were sometimes in short supply. Concrete was incredibly strong and could be manipulated much more easily to suit building design.

2. Cheap and easy to use

Some of the earliest examples of Roman Concrete are found in the famous temples of the Roman Empire. The Temple of Vesta in Tivoli in Italy, for example, was entirely constructed from concrete. The fact that the concrete was made from just rubble and mortar meant that it was very cheap to source – this not only made it cheaper to build more buildings but also to construct buildings of greater, and more impressive scale. Working with concrete was also much easier and required less skill than many other construction materials at that time. As a result, the use of concrete also enabled the Romans to put much larger, unskilled workforces to use in the construction sector. The result was that the Romans used concrete extensively in buildings, not just for walls but also for arches, barrel vaults and domes.

3. Durability

While the Romans were quick to realise the benefits of concrete, it took other civilisations longer to catch up. However, by the time of the Industrial Revolution concrete was a regular component in construction. Reinforced concrete first made an appearance around this time – concrete that has had reinforcement (usually steel reinforcing bars) embedded in it before it has set. Concrete already represented a huge step forward in durability in construction, particularly against the elements. However, reinforced concrete took this a step further, providing durability irrespective of corrosion or sustained stress. It also made more creativity possible in construction due to its strength and high toleration of tensile strain – the unusual design of the Philips Pavilion in Brussels is one that was enabled by the use of reinforced concrete, for example.

At The RG Group we are always looking at the lessons of the past to help drive and inspire the construction industry of the future. Contact us to discuss your current project needs.

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