Top 5 Things You Never Knew About ConcreteMarch 26, 2015
Concrete is amazing stuff – tough, versatile and relatively inexpensive. Prevalent in all areas of society, concrete is bar far the most common building material on the planet. But here are some fascinating facts that you probably do not know about concrete…
Concrete is not a purely man-made phenomenon! In Israel, in the 1960s, a natural layer of concrete was discovered which has been dated to twelve million years ago. It is believed that oil shale ignited near a limestone area and the result was a naturally formed layer of concrete. Even manmade concrete is not as recent a discovery as we thought. Long before the Egyptians and Romans experimented with concrete and cement, there is evidence dating back at least 9,000 years that Neolithic people near both Galilee and Serbia used to make floors using burned limestone mixed with sand: this worked as a binder and hardener.
Roman concrete, the first concrete which was made with some understanding of the principles and physics behind the substance, has stood the test of time. Despite the lack of rebar (without which we would not have any skyscrapers!), their concrete constructions have lasted two thousand years or more. Scientists have surmised that this is because Roman concrete was very thick and chunky, very unlike the runny liquid that modern construction uses today.
One would assume that a man whose ideas gave us modern concrete, and whose son went on to found a business that has become the world’s largest concrete company, would be something of a pillar of respectability. Not at all! Joseph Aspdin, whose son William founded Portland Cement, was not once, but twice arrested for plundering paving stones for use in his concrete mixtures! He cited a lack of handy stone as a cause… His son moved away from the scene of his father’s shame, finding and making excellent use of the chalk that can be found abundantly in North West Kent.
Concrete is, as mentioned above, very versatile. It can be formed into almost any shape and is sturdy and strong when the mixture is correct. The ‘Ship on Shore’ pub in Sheerness has tangible proof of this versatility. A barge, laden with barrels of concrete, ran aground and the barrels were all washed ashore. The delighted publican seized the barrels, hoping, optimistically, that they would be filled with alcohol. Instead, he found perfect concrete casts of the barrels – or barrel-sized and shaped bricks, in other words! Barely blinking, he set to work and used these unusual bricks to construct a small addition to his pub, one that still stands today and is now a protected building!
Thomas Edison, best known for his work with electricity and creation of a stable filament for light bulbs, was fascinated with concrete. He held some 49 concrete patents and experimented with concrete houses – which he planned to fill with concrete furniture, concrete refrigerators and even concrete pianos! Perhaps fortunately, his experiments were conducted on too small a scale and nothing came of the project…