From function to form, Portland cement can be put to task in a variety of ways and with some of the coolest uses and interesting facts that you may not have been aware of up until now. The most widely used building material in present day and with its foundations dating as far back as ancient roman concrete, cement is by far one of the coolest construction materials around given its hugely versatile and resourceful purposes.

Let’s take a look at the Top Five Things That Make Concrete Cool.

  • Heat of HydrationTo the untrained eye it’s easy to assume that mixing Portland cement with water to form a paste is as simple as mixing flour with water to make glue. While the principle might be similar, you’d be mistaken to assume that there wasn’t a little bit of magic that happens as concrete creates some of the most magnificent and longest standing man-made forms in the world. The process of blending cement with water that then later cures is in fact a chemical reaction that occurs as compounds in the cement comes into contact with water. What happens next is in fact rather astounding whereby wet cement starts heating up, this process is referred to as the Heat of Hydration which sees to it that large bodies of wet cement can emit a fair temperature increase as it hydrate, set and cures.(up to 70OC in certain cases of mass concrete)
  • Built to last a lifetime and moreWith an astounding compressive strength, it’s no surprise that some of the oldest standing constructs were originally made from earlier forms of concrete. Known as the largest unreinforced concrete dome said to have been made from a blend of lime and volcanic ash from Mount Vesuvius erected in 126AD, the Pantheon is an excellent reminder of just how steadfast and durable concrete can be. Another impressive example and a little closer to home; the Western Cape’s Castle of Good Hope is known as the oldest colonial building in South Africa and one of the world’s best preserved examples of the Dutch East India Company’s 17th century architecture. Built between 1666 and 1679 it has been explained that the cement used to erect this historic landmark was made by burning shells in lime kilns until it formed lime which was then once again mixed with shells and sand to create a concrete.
  • As big as it is heavySome of the world’s largest and heaviest structures have been built using concrete including the Three Gorges Dam in China weighing in as the heaviest concrete structure in the world at a weight of 144,309,356,753.51 pounds. The amount of material used in the building of the Three Gorges Project is staggering. Consuming 28 million cubic meters of concrete. The Three Gorges Dam is the world’s largest capacity hydroelectric power station with 34 generators: 32 main generators, each with a capacity of 700 MW, and two plant power generators, each with capacity of 50 MW, making a total capacity of 22,500 MW. Meanwhile the Empire State Building in New York, United states, was built using 62,000 cubic yards of concrete and was known as the world’s tallest building until the rise of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai 2010. At over 828 metres (2,716.5 feet) and more than 160 stories, Burj Khalifa holds the following records: Tallest building in the world. Tallest free-standing structure in the world. Highest number of stories in the world. Locally the Carlton Centre a 50 storey skyscraper in downtown Johannesburg was formerly known as Africa’s tallest building but has since relinquished its title to the 55 reinforced concrete floors of the Leonardo Hotel in Sandton Johannesburg.
  • The most widely employed material in construction world-wide.It’s a concrete fact that cement is the most commonly used material across the globe. After the Washington Post estimated that China’s use of concrete between the period of 2011 and 2013 exceeded the USA’s use of this popular building material throughout the entire 100 years of the 20th century, it has since been predicted that the global demand for cement will increase by almost 5% year on year calculating that the construction industry will have consumed some 4.2 billion tons of cement in 2019 (Back in 1995, the total global production of cement amounted to just 1.39 billion tons, which indicates the extent to which the construction industry and therefore the consumption of cement has grown since then.)
  • Concrete 3D PrintingWhat was once largely limited to the use of molten plastic and metal, 3D Printing technology has evolved to now employ the use of wet cement blends. Revolutionising the architecture and construction industry in leaps and bounds, concrete 3D printing technology offers an efficient and cost effective alternative in basic construction. Using a method similar to fused deposition modelling (FDM), concrete 3D printing takes place using an automated and repetitive methodology that directs a print head through a sequence of rotations. While designs may still be limited to more modest forms, concrete 3D printing can be extremely effective in the construction of high density, low cost housing in areas of high demand.