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A Brief Snapshot of the History of Concrete

Concrete is known for its versatility and durability, and is used for a wide range of building purposes these days. You will find concrete in the foundations of our homes and roads, and in various decorative applications in residential and commercial buildings. Do you ever wonder how we came to have a concrete city here in Melbourne, and when this love affair with concrete and cement began?

Early history of concrete

The first concrete-like structures were built by the Nabataea traders in the regions of southern Syria and northern Jordan in around 6500 BC. However, concrete didn’t become a popular construction material until around 3000 BC, when the Egyptians started using early forms of concrete in construction. They created early forms of concrete by mixing mud and straw to form bricks during their construction of the pyramids. In around 300 BC, the Roman Empire began to refine the concrete mixture so that it was stronger and had greater longevity. The ancient Romans mixed volcanic ash with lime mortar, sand and gravel to make a substance resembling modern cement to build many of their famous monuments, such as the Colosseum and the Pantheon.

The temporary demise of concrete

The technique for making cement was lost to the ages after the fall of the Roman Empire. The quality of cementing materials declined because a lot of people became more interested in building with stone. Cement making techniques re-emerged in the 1400s when some important Roman manuscripts were found which contained information about pozzolan cement. This revived interested in concrete and in 1499 the first modern use of concrete was witnessed when the pier of the Pont de Notre Dame in Paris was constructed using pozzolan cement.
The industrial revolution

Following its revival in the 1400s, concrete started gaining popularity again, but the real boom in concrete use began in the 1700s. In 1774 an English engineer named John Smeaton started to work on a new construction material that could withstand the erosive effects of water. He realised that the use of quicklime made a stronger cement than had previously been used. He went on to discover that the calcinations of limestone that contained clay produced hydraulic lime, a lime that hardens under water. Smeaton’s work paved the way to more widespread use of concrete throughout England and contributed to further advances in concrete technology.

Portland cement

In 1824 an English bricklayer named Joseph Aspdin patented the first true artificial cement which was a mixture of limestone and clay. He named this product ‘Portland Cement’ and it remains the dominant cement that is used to make concrete today.

Decorative concrete

The first commercially produced coloured concrete was created in Chicago in 1915. In the 1950s, stamping concrete became popular, when colour, texture and patterns were used to add accents to concrete floors for outdoor and indoor applications. In Tunisia in the 1990s, palace workers accidentally polished a palace floor completely dry, thus resulting in the process for creating the aesthetically-pleasing concrete floors that we have come to love in Melbourne today. Over the last 15 years or so new polishing techniques have emerged and these processes are constantly being improved as new technologies are developed. At iCon Concrete we have our finger of the pulse of the concrete industry and make sure that we stay on top of the latest techniques and technologies.

If you are looking for a concrete company in Melbourne you can trust, call the concrete experts at iCon Concrete today on 0402 082 472.