The Age of Concrete: Growing Out of Our Early Stages

Chris Jorgensen

Jan 13, 2022

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The Age of Concrete by Chris Jorgensen, Mudbots



With the modern research of what we now understand as concrete, we can begin to delve even further into our history banks to start learning how the modern day has grappled with this miracle substance. In the grand stage of time, we don’t have to go back very far, though it will seem distant to us. But for what we consider to be the modern “what we use today” material, we only have to go back to 1824.


For a quick recap from previous articles, let’s summarize what we covered last time: concrete being a combination of binders and aggregate material, namely stones and small rocks varied in size depending on the usage, uses these binders to create what we know as concrete. Cement and concrete have a high compressive capacity, but has a weak inherit tensile strength. All caught up? Great.


Beginning in 1824, Joseph Aspdin developed what is referred to as Portland cement, which is the most commonly used cement across the world even today. Though advancements on it continued through the 1840’s, the usage remains the same. Portland cement has been the industry standard for the most common uses found in concrete across the world. Add in sand, you have mortar, mix in gravel, you have concrete. The cement material used in these early days was a mortar material used to fuse bricks together while building. The first usage of this cement was not yet up to the scale we know by today’s standards.


In 1849, a new reinforced concrete was developed by a man named Joseph Monier, which made use of a supporting material. He did this by using iron rods set in a grid pattern to reinforce the concrete. This was later standardized into common rebar materials used today, using the steel bars passively built into the framing before the concrete is poured to give it a higher tensile strength. Following this innovation, the world saw the first reinforced concrete house built by François Coignet in 1853. In 1875, the first reinforced concrete bridge was built by Joseph Monier using these reinforcing techniques. However, prior to the 1870’s, concrete in construction was almost completely unheard of.


1902 saw the use of steel bars as a reinforcing material in concrete construction. Steel reinforcement allowed larger scale buildings to be made available. The first being an apartment building designed and built in Paris, France by August Perret. He would be later recognized for his major works, which would include the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées; the Church of Notre-Dame du Raincy (not to be confused with the cathedral of the same city); and the Mobilier National in Paris. Recognized for their use of having the concrete in plain sight, where before it would be hidden beneath other material.


In 1904, the first high-rise building, the Ingalls building, was erected in Cincinati Ohio. This 16-story building was designed and constructed by the Cincinnati architectural firm Elzner & Anderson. The building was a large feat in the construction industry, and its success was the thing that opened the door to more wide scale acceptance of concrete material in building large scale structures. The designs in these few years provided the steps to develop the material in modern construction.


The next grand achievement, the Hoover Dam and the Grand Coulee Dam, were built in 1936. These were both built with air entraining agents added to the concrete, giving it improved resistance to freezing environments. These large-scale structures were so awesome that they became tourist destinations. Monoliths that led people to travel from everywhere to marvel at a concrete building. The history around those achievements will be called upon later, but right now let’s focus on material only.


1981-1989 gives us Union Plaza in Seattle, Washington, using then the highest strength concrete made to date. Two Union Square was the first building to use 19,000 PSI high-strength concrete in its construction. The concretes unusually strong properties came from its relatively low water to cement ratio, the addition of silica fume, as well as carefully selected aggregate. All of this was done to withstand the intense pressure and reduce the corrosion of the steel reinforcement. The low water content made the concrete much less workable. To combat this, additives called superplasticizers were added, which have the amazing property of reducing the slump of a mix with no extra water. This gave rise to the modern ideas of constructing larger buildings with concrete and reinforced material. Today we use rebar nets and have dozens of different types of additives that manipulate specific parameters to strengthen the final product.


Everything we are tracking here is the major achievements in the use of modern concrete, and there are gaps of years or decades before we get any major advancement. Perhaps it’s time for another one. Mudbots is where we start to see new advances in the industry, and how we are taking this material into the future.


Mudbots is changing how we use this technology to accomplish new and exciting things. Our 3D Mortar printers use the latest tech to print and build efficient and effective structures using mortar cement that can withstand up to 5,000 PSI. Mudbots also employs a variety of concrete additives to print footings, foundations, walls, and more. Each of these applications have varying concrete specifications. Mudbots can meet all of these requirements. By taking all of these advancements into our work, we are creating a future of construction automation. It’s our turn to change the industry.





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concrete age of concrete cement tensile strength Portland cement concrete construction 5000 PSI future of construction automation reinforced concrete

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About the Author

This article is written by Chris Jorgensen
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