Concrete is one of the most used construction materials in the world. The industry is worth around $37 million and in the United States, it provides a staggering two million jobs. Concrete was invented in 1824 when clay and chalk were heated in a kiln until the CO2 was eliminated.
Today, approximately 10 billion tons of the grey stuff is used to build homes, office blocks, bridges, dams, and just about every other structure you can think of. It can be used on its own, or with other building materials. And thanks to the wonders of technology, new types of concrete, such as crystalline waterproofing concrete are making waves in the construction world.
It is abundantly clear that concrete has lots of advantages, but did you know that it also has some disadvantages? In this article, we are going to look at both.
Concrete is very long-lasting. Current estimates are that concrete will still be here in thousands of years, so if humanity goes extinct because of some terrible environmental or man-made event, the chances are good that our vast concrete structures will still be standing long after we are long gone.
It is Extremely Strong
One of the reasons why concrete is used in civil engineering projects is that it is very strong. Pre-cast concrete is often used to build bridges and dams. On average, concrete has a strength of 3,000 pounds per square inch (PSI), but some types of concrete mixes go up to 20,000 PSI. When concrete is reinforced with steel rebar, it is much stronger and can span very large distances.
It is Very Versatile
Concrete is extremely versatile. Liquid concrete can be poured into molds and used for virtually any purpose. If your first vision of concrete is the ugly tower block you walk past every day, remember that there are many visionary structures made from concrete, including the Sydney Opera House!
Of course, concrete isn’t all good. There are several reasons why concrete is not the best material in the world.
Concrete is not Environmentally Friendly
As useful as it can be in construction, concrete is not environmentally friendly. The raw materials are fine, but the industrial process of extracting the clay and chalk, mixing the ingredients, and then applying the finished concrete, is bad for the environment. Industrial production of concrete generates huge quantities of carbon-dioxide and causes irreparable damage to vast areas of topsoil.
It isn’t Reusable
Unlike many other building materials, for example, timber and steel, once concrete has been fashioned into a shape, it cannot be repurposed other than as rubble. It is an inherently inflexible material, which is a serious disadvantage given there is so much of the stuff in existence.
Poorly Made Concrete Decays
As is evident in many poorer parts of the world, poorly made concrete decays, which causes buildings to collapse. Concrete decay is becoming a problem in many countries, including the US, and it is a ticking timebomb in fast-growing cities.
Despite its problems, concrete is and remains one of the most versatile and popular building materials in the world today.