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Concrete is a composite construction material made primarily with aggregate, cement, and water. There are many formulations of concrete, which provide varied properties.

**DID YOU KNOW…? Concrete is the most used man-made product in the world.

Concrete is widely used for making architectural structures, foundations, brick/block walls, pavements, bridges/overpasses, motorways/roads, runways, parking structures, dams, pools/reservoirs, pipes, footings for gates, fences and poles and even boats.

Famous concrete structures include the Burj Khalifa (world's tallest building), Hoover Dam, the Panama Canal and the Roman Pantheon.

Concrete technology was known by the Ancient Romans and was widely used within the Roman Empire—the Colosseum is largely built of concrete and the concrete dome of the Pantheon is the world's largest. After the Empire passed, use of concrete became scarce until the technology was re-pioneered in the mid-18th century.


The word concrete comes from the Latin word "concretus" (meaning compact or condensed), the perfect passive participle of "concrescere", from "con-" (together) and "crescere" (to grow).

Perhaps the earliest known occurrence of cement was twelve million years ago, when a natural deposit formed after an occurrence of oil shale naturally combusted while adjacent to a bed of limestone. These ancient deposits were investigated in the 60's and 70's. On a human time-scale, lime mortars were used in Greece, Crete, and Cyprus in 800 BC, and the Romans used concrete extensively from 300BC to 476AD, a span of more than seven hundred years.
Concrete was used for construction in many ancient structures.

During the Roman Empire, Roman concrete (or opus caementicium) was made from quicklime, pozzolana and an aggregate of pumice. Its widespread use in many Roman structures, a key event in the history of architecture termed the Roman Architectural Revolution, freed Roman construction from the restrictions of stone and brick material and allowed for revolutionary new designs in terms of both structural complexity and dimension.

Concrete, as the Romans knew it, was a new and revolutionary material. Laid in the shape of arches, vaults and domes, it quickly hardened into a rigid mass, free from many of the internal thrusts and strains that troubled the builders of similar structures in stone or brick.

Modern tests show that opus caementicium had as much compressive strength as modern Portland-cement concrete (ca. 200 kg/cm2). However, due to the absence of reinforcement, its tensile strength was far lower than modern reinforced concrete, and its mode of application was also different:

Modern structural concrete differs from Roman concrete in two important details. First, its mix consistency is fluid and homogeneous, allowing it to be poured into forms rather than requiring hand-layering together with the placement of aggregate, which, in Roman practice, often consisted of rubble. Second, integral reinforcing steel gives modern concrete assemblies great strength in tension, whereas Roman concrete could depend only upon the strength of the concrete bonding to resist tension.

The widespread use of concrete in many Roman structures has ensured that many survive to the present day. The Baths of Caracalla in Rome are just one example. Many Roman aqueducts and bridges have masonry cladding on a concrete core, as does the dome of the Pantheon.

After the Roman Empire, the use of burning lime and pozzolana was greatly reduced until the technique was all but forgotten between 500AD and the 1300s. Between the 1300s until the mid-1700s, the use of cement gradually returned. The Canal du Midi was built using concrete in 1670, and there are concrete structures in Finland that date from the 16th century.

Perhaps the greatest driver behind the modern usage of concrete was the third Eddystone Lighthouse in Devon, England. To create this structure, between 1756 and 1793, British engineer John Smeaton pioneered the use of hydraulic lime in concrete, using pebbles and powdered brick as aggregate.

A method for producing Portland cement was patented by Joseph Aspdin on 1824.
In 1889 the first concrete reinforced bridge was built, and the first large concrete dams were built in 1936, Hoover Dam and Grand Coolee Dam.

**DID YOU KNOW…? Reinforced concrete was invented in 1849 by Joseph Monier.


Ancient additives
Concrete additives have been used since Roman and Egyptian times, when it was discovered that adding volcanic ash to the mix allowed it to set underwater. Similarly, the Romans knew that adding horse hair made concrete less liable to crack while it hardened, and adding blood made it more frost-resistant.

Modern additives
In modern times, researchers have experimented with the addition of other materials to create concrete with improved properties, such as higher strength or electrical conductivity.


  • The world record for the largest concrete pour in a single project is the Three Gorges Dam in Hubei Province, China by the Three Gorges Corporation. The amount of concrete used in the construction of the dam is estimated at 16 million cubic meters over 17 years. The previous record was 12.3 million cubic meters held by Itaipu hydropower station in Brazil.

  • The world record for concrete pumping was set on 7 August 2009 during the construction of the Parbati Hydroelectric Project, near the village of Suind, Himachal Pradesh, India, when the concrete mix was pumped through a vertical height of 715 m (2,346 ft).

  • The world record for the largest continuously poured concrete raft was achieved in August 2007 in Abu Dhabi by contracting firm Al Habtoor-CCC Joint Venture and the concrete supplier is Unibeton Ready Mix. The pour (a part of the foundation for the Abu Dhabi's Landmark Tower) was 16,000 cubic meters of concrete poured within a two-day period. The previous record, 13,200 cubic metres poured in 54 hours despite a severe tropical storm requiring the site to be covered with tarpaulins to allow work to continue, was achieved in 1992 by joint Japanese and South Korean consortiums Hazama Corporation and the Samsung C&T Corporation for the construction of the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

  • The world record for largest continuously poured concrete floor was completed 8 November 1997, in Louisville, Kentucky by design-build firm EXXCEL Project Management. The monolithic placement consisted of 225,000 square feet (20,900 m2) of concrete placed within a 30 hour period, finished to a flatness tolerance of FF 54.60 and a levelness tolerance of FL 43.83. This surpassed the previous record by 50% in total volume and 7.5% in total area.

  • The record for the largest continuously placed underwater concrete pour was completed 18 October 2010, in New Orleans, Louisiana by contractor C. J. Mahan Construction Company, LLC of Grove City, Ohio. The placement consisted of 10,251 cubic yards of concrete placed in a 58.5 hour period using two concrete pumps and two dedicated concrete batch plants. Upon curing, this placement allows the 50,180-square-foot (4,662 m2) cofferdam to be dewatered approximately 26 feet (7.9 m) below sea level to allow the construction of the IHNC GIWW Sill & Monolith Project to be completed in the dry.