Interesting Trends in Commercial Concrete Construction

By Tony Inglese

Concrete has been an integral part of structures in society since the Romans first used it thousands of years ago and it is easy to see why. The Pantheon in Rome still survives to this day proving the ability of concrete to survive the ages. Concrete as worked so well for so long that historically the industry is rarely a witness to revolutionary innovation. However, in recent years the concrete industry – fueled by advances in science and technology – has begun to see several interesting new trends that may very well indicate where the industry’s future lies and how we will see concrete differently in the future.

Polished Concrete Floors: Even today concrete floors are unfortunately oftentimes seen as a bare-bones build-in that is only suitable for warehouse floors and parking lots, however, in a world where green tech have spiked in popularity polished concrete floors are beginning to offer sustainability to commercial and retail facilities across the globe. Polished concrete is created after being treated with a chemical densifier, being ground and polished with high-grit pads until it is 800-3000 grit, and then stained or dyed with a variety of stains and dyes that can make it look similar to various granites or quartzes. Because polished concrete floors are already made of a material that is built into facilities to begin with, it reduces a building’s carbon footprint simply by cutting out the need to buy flooring. Additionally, these glossy floors reflect overhead lighting quite easily which can help even the largest and dimmest of spaces to look brighter.

Pervious Concrete: Also known as permeable or porous pavement, pervious concrete is another green trend in commercial concrete construction that is becoming increasingly more popular and an increasingly environmentally-conscious world. Pervious concrete is actually a technology that was first used in the mid-19th century but has recently rebounded as another Green technological advance. As its name suggests, pervious concrete has miniscule pores that allows rain water to drain into the ground instead of overfilling storm drains and detention ponds. Additionally, it prevents materials from being swept into storm drains and clogging them.

Graphene Reinforced Concrete: Graphene is a flat monolayer layer of graphite in which the carbon atoms are arranged hexagonally. Research in recent years has shown that graphene could potentially be one of the strongest, if not the strongest, material in the world with an ultimate strength of 130,000 megapascals (MPa) and a density of 1.0 g/cm3. Comparatively, concrete has an ultimate strength of 3 MPa and a density of 2.7 g/cm3, structural steel an ultimate strength of 400 MPa and a density of 7.8 g/cm3, and diamond an ultimate strength of 2,800 MPa and a density of 3.5 g/cm3. Concrete is already commonly reinforced with steel or other fibers but even a small amount of graphene added to concrete has the potential to hugely boost concrete’s tensile and compressive strength as well as reducing concrete’s weight.

When consumers think of the word “change” they often don’t think of the concrete industry; after all, to most, concrete construction looks like as if it hasn’t changed since the Romans first did it. But the truth is that science and technology impact concrete construction in so many ways and these new ways to make and use concrete will lead to the creation of structures that will last a millennia.

Tony Inglese works for Enviro-Systems, a concrete construction solutions company offering environmentally friendly concrete products that assist with concrete washout and concrete removal

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