As a precast concrete wall manufacturer, AFTEC is all about concrete. We engineer it, design it, sell it, and manufacture the systems for it. When it comes to concrete construction, we get excited to help project managers, supervisors, and owners complete their projects. What’s more, we enjoy seeing how a “simple” concrete wall can do so much.
In this article, AFTEC is going to share 10 surprising concrete facts that we’re positive you’ve never read before. Our goal is to enlighten you on the utility and function of concrete that most either take for granted or don’t realize at all.
It’s hard to imagine modern life without concrete. The buildings we occupy and work from all utilize concrete in some way. From kitchen counter tops to skyscraper foundations, concrete is used everywhere — and for good reason. What’s more, a form of concrete was used in antiquity to build walls, too. Some of these walls have lasted upwards of 2,000 years before deteriorating. The strength and durability of properly engineered, designed, and manufactured concrete walls can last you for decades.
10 Surprising Concrete Facts
Now that you understand the importance of concrete throughout history, let’s take a look at some surprising facts you may have not read before:
#1. Reinforced Concrete is Fireproof and Waterproof
As one of the most widely used building materials today, reinforced concrete is fireproof. Due to its slow rate of thermal conductivity, concrete does not transfer heat very well, which means concrete is an effective shield against fire. Imagine a large building going up in flames. Most of what’s left over is the concrete structure and foundation.
What’s more, concrete is highly water resistant. With certain types of concrete mixes and the use of membranes, one can make concrete virtually waterproof. With this in mind, concrete quickly gets placed at the top of the list for being one of the best building materials around the world.
#2. Concrete is the Best Building Material for Highway Construction
When it comes to building roads, highways, and thruways, concrete is super effective. It’s a strong, durable, and some would say “flexible” material that can be shaped and formed to fit almost any need. Nearly 30 percent of all highways in the united states are built with concrete. Although the initial cost of concrete is higher than most other materials like asphalt, it lasts longer than asphalt and requires a lot less maintenance over time.
What’s more, concrete mixes can be customized to fit the needs of the project, which makes it an attractive option when building roads, highways, thruways, and more.
#3. In 1909, the First Mile of Concrete Highway was Built
In Detroit, Michigan, the first mile of concrete highway was built. This is considered the first stretch of highway built with concrete in the United States. Woodward Avenue is now part of northwest Detroit. The mile-long road cost under $14,000 and was built by the Wayne County Road Commision. Can you guess who was a part of this commission? Henry Ford, the founder of Ford Motor Company. Up until this stretch of highway was built, roads were made of dirt, brick, cobblestone, or a mix of stone and tar.
#4. Concrete in Antiquity
For thousands of years, concrete has been used for a variety of building applications. From roads to skyscrapers. What’s interesting, Romans utilized a mixture of concrete that allowed for their buildings to still be standing after thousands of years. What’s interesting is that Vitruvius, a Roman civil engineer, wrote about the different types of “pozzolana” as black, white, grey, and red. These were the types of concrete paste used in concrete mixes to bind the materials together. While the Greeks are attributed with discovering this useful mix, the Romans are the ones who utilized it at scale.
#5. Concrete Listening Ears
During WWII, the British Army developed, designed, and deployed what are called listening ears. These parabolic acoustic mirrors were used to detect incoming aircraft, as a solution before radar was invented by Sir Robert Watson-Watt. These listening ears are what gave the British Army an early notice of incoming aircraft so that they could do their best to prepare and react.
#6. Cement and Concrete Are Not The Same
When you take a look at the actual mixture of concrete, you will find that 60-65 percent is aggregates like sand, crushed stone, and gravel, 15-20 percent is water, and about 10-15 percent is cement. The cement and water harden, which binds the other materials, creating what we know today as concrete. The idea that there are “cement” sidewalks is a falsehood that’s been perpetuated for years. In reality, cement is simply a small percentage of the overall mixture that binds materials.
#7. Concrete Is Used Indoor
When you think of concrete as a material, you probably imagine buildings, roads, and dams. Concrete is used primarily in structural applications. While this is all true, concrete can also be used for interior remodeling applications. Those who want a modern, sleek look to their counter tops, sinks, fireplaces, and more, they can utilize concrete. What’s more, concrete can be customized with texture, so that you aren’t left with a gritty surface — unless that’s what you desire.
#8. Reinforced Concrete Is Used Underwater
As mentioned above, concrete mixtures can be virtually waterproof. Cement as an aggregate in concrete allows for concrete to do amazing things like not deteriorate underwater. This leads to applications like piers, tunnels, sewer works, and more. How do you utilize concrete underwater to outperform steel and wood? A pozzolanic concrete mix, similar to how the Romans mixed their cement. This mixture is highly water resistant (waterproof).
#9. Concrete Wields Impressive Compression Strength
When compared to other materials, concrete has an impressive compression strength. For example, wood has a PSI strength of about 1,000 on average. Concrete mixtures range between 2,500 and 7,000 in PSI strength. That’s more than two to seven times stronger than your average wood strength. In some cases, concrete compression strength can get as strong as 20,000 PSI.
#10. Concrete Is Most Popular Material in the World
It may come as a surprise to discover that concrete is the most widely used material in the world. It’s simple material mix is available nearly everywhere. Nearly 20 billion tons is used annually around the globe.
Do you need a quote for a precast concrete wall project? Interested in becoming a AFTEC precast concrete wall systems manufacturer? Contact AFTEC today to start the conversation.