If you were asked to make a list of all the things that can be made of concrete you would probably be less likely to develop writer’s cramp if, instead, you listed things that could NOT be made of concrete. Each year, approximately five billion tons of concrete are used worldwide, and it is not just for construction projects like buildings and roads. This mix of binding cement and aggregate called concrete is so versatile that it is also used for decorative purposes, such as an elaborate plant holder or large, fanciful molded animal figures in public parks. The fact is, concrete is so much a part of modern life that most people pretty much take its presence for granted. They do not realize that this rather humble material actually has a very long and quite illustrious history.
In sunny Italy, there is a town called Pozzuoli that sits on the Bay of Naples. Around the second century BC, Roman architects and builders discovered that Pozzuoli’s beaches and adjacent areas featured a unique type of volcanic sand. The Romans called it pozzolana, and quickly realized that it made an excellent binding agent in their cement. Adding stones of various sizes to make an ancient Roman version of concrete, along with its binding properties, the combination of pozzolana, lime, and water caused a chemical reaction resulting in a solid rock-like material that maintained its structure even under water.
Although this early version of concrete was quite different than today’s material, it was sturdy and reliable. That allowed the Romans to put it to great use. The material was used to build everything from storm drains and aqueducts to bridges and buildings. In 193 BC, the Porticus Aemelia warehouse in Rome was constructed using the pozzolana concrete. This was followed in the first century BC with the logistical miracle of building a concrete harbor in the Roman protectorate of Judea. About 300 years later, Roman builders used a more advanced version of pozzolana concrete to construct the 142 foot dome on the Pantheon.
Since pozzolana and its unique properties was not available elsewhere in the Roman Empire, the extensive use of this early concrete was usually limited to Rome and its near environs. When the Roman Empire fell around 400 AD, the technology to make concrete was lost. It would take another 1300 years before it was rediscovered.
Many inventors experimented over the centuries with different compositions of material, but most concrete experts agree that modern concrete was the brainchild of an English bricklayer named Joseph Aspdin. In 1824, he patented a material that he called Portland cement because it looked like the stone found on the Isle of Portland off the coast of England.
Soon, 19th century builders were erecting everything from cottages to bridges. By the late 19th century and early 20th century, some remarkable concrete structures were being built all over the world. Some of the more notable ones include Ward House in Port Chester, NY; Leland Stanford, Jr. Museum at Stanford University in California; the Ingalls Building (16 story skyscraper) in Cincinnati; Theater Champs Elysees and the Notre Dame du Raincy in Paris, France.
Concrete has continued to be one of the most popular construction materials in modern architecture. Although there might be variations in formula, Houston concrete will be very similar to the concrete used in Tulsa, Chicago, Cleveland, etc. Many companies now offer redi mix concrete, a paving concrete mix that can be delivered ready to pour and spread.
Regardless of what a modern construction project may entail, using concrete Houston mixes ensures that whatever is built will last and last.