Over the course of the last several years, there have been a vast number of advancements in concrete technology. These advancements have taken place across the entire industry in areas such as mixture proportioning, durability, recycling, and the effect on the environment. The downside is that many of these advancements have not been readily used by the construction and consumers alike. New technology always has a tough time adapting due to the typical high cost and the lack of knowledge or unfamiliarity with implementing the technology. Some technology, however, seems to bypass the norm and become used daily in the construction industry.

Most of the new concrete technologies are starting to gain traction within the construction industry. Ultra-High Performance concrete (HPC) and geopolymer concrete are some prime examples. Both technologies offer advantages to the evolution of concrete without any added disadvantages to the normal concrete used routinely in the construction landscape today.

Recycled materials are used in the creation of high-performance concrete so it also better for the environment which fits in with the green movement of modern society. Among the recycled materials used in the development of HPC are silica fume, ground granulated blast furnace slag, and fly ash which is the result of burning coal and collecting the waste by-product.

With high-performance concrete, the addition of these recycled materials reduces the amount of Portland cement needed which is probably the number one advantage of this technology. Most people do not realize the impact that concrete has on our carbon footprint but it does affect the environment drastically. The estimated effect of concrete on the carbon dioxide emissions scale is about 5 to 10%.  That is a huge number considering the amount of concrete used today. Reducing the amount of Portland cement needed to produce concrete reduces the amount of carbon dioxide emissions and energy consumption which in turn has a profound impact on global warming.

Fly ash and furnace slag are also a more cost effective solution because they are cheaper than traditional cement and provide a higher quality of concrete than Portland cement. The technology will make concrete last for hundreds of years rather than a few decades.

The utilization of these by-product materials is also important due to the amount of land saved that would be destroyed to gain the materials to produce Portland cement. Byproducts from burning coal, such as fly ash, is very abundant anywhere you go in the industrial world. This also makes the technology great because the materials are so readily available at a fraction of the cost. The reason that coal by-products are so inexpensive is that before this technology they were considered trash and companies would just bury them in a landfill somewhere. Now the companies can make a little profit from it instead and the number of burial sites is reduced which translates into cleaner streams and less contamination of water supplies.

This new form of concrete stands up better to corrosion than typical concrete and is as strong or stronger as well. The HPC concrete is measured to have equal or higher compressive and tensile strengths. The  concrete also cures faster than traditional concrete and protects better against fire due to a higher fire resistance. Those are a ton of benefits for a product that is cheaper and reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 90 percent over the lifespan of the concrete.

Another new technology in the world of concrete is BSI. BSI is a fiber reinforced concrete that has a significantly higher tensile strength and flexibility as opposed to traditional concrete. This technology can reduce the amount of concrete needed to build structures by an astounding 80% since it is much denser than traditional concrete.

The high density of this modern form of concrete also adds other benefits to the equation such as being extremely resistant to chemical corrosion which eats away at traditional concrete. Steel Rebar is also eliminated using this form of concrete without reducing strength. In fact, BSI mixed with certain materials such as metallic fibers can be used to build structures that are about as thick as a traditional wall mount flat screen television. This type of concrete has a lifespan that surpasses traditional concrete by as much as 80% and requires significantly less maintenance.

Another technology gaining popularity in the construction industry is Ductal. Ductal concrete is denser than previously mentioned BSI. Ductal concrete is created by incorporating steel organic fibers into the mix to create a dense final product with an amazing strength that surpasses even BSI. Ductal concrete is being tested to be the material used in nuclear containment structures due to its enormous strength. The concrete is also being tested to make bridges, structures, and tunnels earthquake proof. Any material that can hold up to an earthquake, let alone a nuclear blast, is probably going to be a product that can withstand normal use in the construction industry. The concrete itself is more expensive than traditional concrete but the added advantages of less labor, equipment costs, and the elimination of rebar make it competitive with traditional concrete pricing. The biggest bonus to the end user is a structure that is thinner, weighs less, and has a foundation smaller than if traditional concrete was used.

BSI and Ductal are both resistant to water because they are not as porous as regular concrete. This means that water or chemicals cannot seep in and cause cracking of the material. The result is a concrete that is lower maintenance and has higher durability. Both can also be used in structures that are near oceans because they are very resistant to salt water. This makes both materials an excellent option for building bridges and piers over the ocean. The salt water is extremely corrosive to regular concrete and will eat it away over time. That is not an issue with either of these modern concretes.

The world of concrete is a fascinating one, full of creative and impactful innovations. As the saying goes, anything long-lasting must begin with a strong foundation, and the industry proves time and time again that they are up to the task of perfecting that foundation. These concrete products will be used widely in the world and the structures that they help create will be used for several generations to come.

Written by 

Thomas Berry is a recruiter for Legacy Search, focused on networking and recruiting the best talent that the building materials industry has to offer.

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