Concrete is one of the most commonly used materials in construction because it ticks all the right boxes for contractors and builders. These professionals consider the strength, costs, sustainability, practicality, and other important attributes before settling on a material to use, and concrete is always one of the most chosen options.
There are many benefits to using concrete in construction. It is not as cheap as wood, but it is more durable and resistant to water and fire damage. It is not as strong as steel, but it isn’t as expensive. The flexibility of concrete also means it can be used in all kinds of projects.
Are you thinking about using concrete for your next building project? This article will look at 18 benefits of concrete in construction that you should know about. We’ll also look at the different concrete types and how to choose the perfect concrete construction company.
What is Concrete?
Concrete is a composite material derived from the mixture of water, cement, and sand or gravel (known as aggregate). Admixtures may be included in some cases in the right proportions.
When all the materials combine, the cement and water will start a reaction with each other, binding into the hardened rock-like mass known as concrete.
The nature of concrete is why it’s one of the building materials trusted by many builders around the world. The top benefits of choosing concrete in construction are covered below.
1. It is Highly Durable and Resilient
Concrete can remain standing longer than other building materials. It is designed to last centuries in many cases. On average, you can expect concrete to last up to three times longer than other building materials.
While time erodes the integrity of other such materials, it makes concrete stronger. This reduces the total cost of owning a concrete property because such properties won’t require regular rehabilitation or reconstruction.
Concrete doesn’t rot, chip, burn or rust as it is fire, wind, and water-resistant. Seismic activities don’t affect properties constructed with concrete as much as they would with other building materials. Depending on the type of construction and the type of concrete used, such properties may come through such occurrences without any structural damage.
2. It is Low Maintenance
Once poured and set, concrete requires little to no maintenance. It can remain in good shape without needing any protective coats or getting treated with any chemicals. The integrity of concrete can remain for decades without needing any interventions.
Unlike wood and steel, you don’t have to create a budget for regular coating and painting to keep the structure protected from the elements. When you need to repaint or re-coat the concrete, it is mostly to meet aesthetic demands more than anything else.
3. It is Energy Efficient
Concrete’s ability to store energy as a good insulator means it can regulate interior temperature conditions. The building stays cool in the summer and warm in the winter, reducing heating and cooling demands over its lifespan by up to 8% and reduces the strain on heating systems.
In any building, operational energy requirements often represent 85% of the total energy required to run it throughout its life. Concrete makes it easier to construct these energy-efficient structures. The bulk of the energy savings in a concrete building comes from its thermal mass, which allows it to harvest natural energy from the sun, as well as thermal energy from HVAC and lighting systems in the building.
When combined with other energy-saving technologies such as geothermal or hydronic heating and cooling systems, as well as radiant floors, concrete can help ensure a 70% energy efficiency improvement in many buildings. This can help cut down the power consumption needs of whole cities.
Buildings made of concrete have passive survivability, making them a good place to be in the event of loss of power or heating.
Using concrete in the construction of pavements instead of asphalt also saves 70% of the energy required to construct, maintain, and rehabilitate the pavement. Also, heavy trucks use up to 7% less energy when running on concrete pavements.
The energy efficiency of concrete stretches into its production. The amount of energy needed for the production of concrete is low compared to what is required for the production of steel, for example.
Only 450–750 kWh/ton energy is needed to produce plain cement concrete, and 800–3200 kWh/ton is required for the production of reinforced concrete. Structural steel will demand three to ten times the energy consumption at around 8000 kWh/ton or more.
4. Concrete is Versatile
Concrete becomes strong and functional when it is hardened, but when freshly mixed, it is malleable enough to adapt to all kinds of surfaces, shapes, textures, and forms.
The versatility of concrete has been taken to new heights with the rising popularity of innovations such as photocatalytic concrete, ultra-high performance concrete, and pervious concrete. These types of concrete are enabling new and creative uses of the material in construction.
The versatility of concrete also means that it can be used in different application methodologies. It can be hand-applied, sprayed, pumped, grouted, poured, or used in advanced applications such as tunnel shotcreting. Builders can also replicate the appearance of wood or bricks with concrete by stamping and molding it.
With the flexibility of concrete, it is no surprise that architects love using it more than other materials in various projects. It allows their creativity to shine through and can be used in small-scale home builds and large-scale commercial and more intricate projects.
5. It Encourages Adaptive Re-use
The durability of concrete means that developments created with it can be converted multiple times to other purposes throughout its lifespan.
With such adaptive reuse, there’ll be less need for new constructions. This ensures the conservation of resources and the preservation of the environment by limiting urban spread.
6. It is Cost-Effective
The durability and low-maintenance nature of concrete mean that structures built with it have lower operating costs in general. In many cases, it is a one-off investment that continues to pay-off for decades. Even after disasters, rebuilds are less capital intensive, when compared to other types of building materials.
In terms of up-front costs, a concrete house will cost between 4-8% more than a steel or wood option of the same size, but when you consider other ways concrete homeowners can save money, it is easy to see why concrete wins for most builders.
The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) says that concrete homeowners can reduce their monthly bills by up to 25% per month. We’ve also seen how concrete pavements only require 30% of the maintenance compared to asphalt over 50 years.
Perhaps the biggest endorsement for the cost-effectiveness of concrete, however, is that the insurance costs for such constructions are typically lower when compared to what is charged for buildings that are more prone to water and fire damage.
Concrete is cheaper than steel, polymers, and other construction materials, and is available worldwide.
7. Concrete Can Be Recycled
Concrete is one of the best building materials to use when avoiding waste is important. It can be produced in the exact amounts needed for a job to ensure that no excess goes to waste. When the concrete structure is no longer needed, it can be broken down and reused elsewhere.
Concrete is typically recycled as aggregate and used as the sub-base material in parking lots, roadbeds, shoreline protection, and more. It can also be used as a granular material, thus reducing the amount of material that goes to the landfill in the event of demolition, as well as the need for completely new materials in all constructions.
8. Concrete Can Be Sourced Locally
In most constructions where concrete is used, local resources are used in the production process—typically within 160km of the project site. The major ingredients for concrete production are cement, water, and aggregates, all of which are readily available in local markets.
This doesn’t just minimize shipping and pollution; it also ensures that the local economy benefits from construction projects in the area.
9. It Hardens at Ambient Temperature
Since cement is a low-temperature bonded inorganic material, concrete sets and hardens under regular ambient or room temperature. This means that it can be used regardless of the weather conditions, and can be easily optimized with admixtures where necessary.
10. It Works Well for Underwater Construction
Compared to wood and steel, concrete is the perfect solution for underwater construction that can withstand the effects of constant water contact. This is why it is trusted in many submerged or underwater constructions such as canals, pipelines, building structures, and more. Even in water with dissolved sulfates and chlorides, concrete can last longer than other materials.
11. It Can be Used in High-Temperature Constructions
Calcium silicate hydrate, the main binder in concrete, can withstand heat up to 1500°F (815°C) before it begins to lose strength. This means that concrete can be used in building high-temperature developments where wood and steel won’t work.
This is why it is used in the construction of high-temperature factories like bakeries. It is also used in the construction of panic rooms as it can withstand high temperatures for 6-12 hours, which is enough time for responders to arrive at the scene of a fire. Even when steel is used in construction, concrete is used to make it fireproof.
People in concrete buildings have a higher chance of surviving a fire outbreak in such an environment compared to those in wooden houses. Steel can also start to melt, depending on the intensity of the fire.
When a concrete building burns, the concrete walls and foundations, as well as the floors, always remain standing. This ensures repairs are cheaper and quicker.
12. Concrete Production Helps in Waste Recycling
Some industrial waste that could have gone to a landfill can be recycled and used in the concrete production process. Some examples of these include fly ash, waste glass, ground vehicle tires and granulated blast-furnace slag.
Hence the production of concrete is an excellent way to reduce industrial waste in any environment without compromising on the quality of the structure.
13. It is Perfect for Coastal Construction
Moisture in the air doesn’t affect concrete in the way it would affect building materials like wood and steel. This makes it a better building material for coastal developments. With concrete, there is a reduced need for maintenance or a complete revamp of such structures after a few years.
Concrete is also resistant to flooding, making it a great building material for protecting buildings from cyclones storms. In most cities where flood protection systems are in place, concrete forms the bedrock of the construction, especially the fiber-reinforced variant.
14. Concrete Isn’t Reflective
Concrete doesn’t reflect light, unlike glass or metal. This characteristic makes it a good option for road and airport construction. Road users and pilots won’t have to navigate reflections as they would on roads and runways built with materials such as asphalt. With the neutral grey color of concrete, it has the right blend of light absorption and reflectivity.
15. Concrete Makes Buildings Quieter
Buildings made of concrete are quieter for residents. When compared to glass, steel, and wood, concrete keeps out more external noise. Its soundproofing capabilities have been proven repeatedly in numerous residential constructions, but it is also useful in industrial buildings where noise control is important.
16. Concrete Enhances the Safety of a Building
As we’ve seen above, concrete makes a building safer because it is fireproof. However, that’s not the only way concrete can improve the safety of a building. Since it doesn’t rot, concrete will not contribute to the worsening of the indoor air quality in any building.
It doesn’t give off any harmful emissions and won’t feed the growth of mildew. Once the concrete is cured, it is completely inert. This means that it won’t emit toxic compounds or any volatile gas.
Occupants of a concrete property don’t have to worry about the building material’s potential toxicity or how it affects the overall safety of the structure. When concrete is used in quality construction, it also prevents the entry of pollen, dust, and other airborne pollutants.
Additionally, since engineers and builders have been working with concrete for decades, there is a reduced threat of compromised health and safety due to a lack of understanding of the material. Unlike some other materials, concrete-based construction techniques have been refined countless times, making them super effective, with all concerns long addressed.
Since concrete keeps out external noise, it gives occupants peace, tranquility and a better sense of privacy compared to other structures. Its durability against harsh weather also means that such occupants can sleep better during heavy rains, floods and windstorms.
When you combine the durability, the fireproof and energy-conserving nature of concrete, it is no surprise that it is ranked highly in most residential constructions.
17. There’s No Risk of Biotic Deterioration
Biotic agents are one of the biggest problems of homes made of organic materials such as wood. Wood is a source of nutrition for some plants and animals. As insects and fungi feed on the fiber found in wood, holes and drive lines will start to appear, ruining the structure’s integrity. In cases of fungi infestation, the wood can decay very quickly.
On the other hand, with concrete constructions, you never have to worry about fungi, carpenter ants, termites, powder beetles, marine borers, or any other organisms. Nothing can feed off concrete.
Depending on the moisture in the environment and the items used in making the concrete, moss can grow on concrete surfaces. However, these are harmless and will quickly die off when the temperatures rise a bit.
18. Concrete Construction Saves Time
The length of time spent on the construction of any concrete development will come down to the type of concrete used. However, the process will most likely be faster than using structural steel. While steel must be fabricated off-site and transported, concrete can be mixed and poured on-site.
In some cases, builders implement a two-day cycle when working with a cast-in-place concrete plan. Such a cycle ensures that workers can complete up to 20,000 square feet of floor in just two days.
What Are The Best Types of Concrete to Use in Construction?
You can only enjoy the benefits of using concrete in construction if you choose the best type for the project. If you use a mix that isn’t powerful enough for a project, the entire project’s integrity could come into question. If you use high-power concrete unnecessarily, you’ll most likely blow past your budget for the project.
Concrete is classified based on its density, the nature of stress conditions, and the type of material used in making it. Some of the most common types of concrete in the construction world today include the following:
This type of concrete is used to construct buildings, dams, pavements, and other projects where very high tensile strength isn’t necessary. It is made of water, cement, sand, and coarse aggregates. The ratio of the mix will vary from project to project, but in many cases, the Nominal Mix Design is preferred.
Lightweight concrete is any type of concrete with a density of less than 1920 kg/m3. Some of the aggregates used in making lightweight concrete include materials such as scoria, pumice, expanded shale, clay, vermiculite, and perlite. Lightweight concrete has very low thermal conductivity and is mostly used for protecting steel structures or bridge decks.
High Density or Heavy Weight Concrete
The density of this type of concrete will vary between 3000 to 4000 kg/m3. It is prepared by using a mixture of high density crushed rocks as coarse aggregates, especially Barytes. Such concrete offers strong protection, which is why it is used in power plants and other sensitive properties to keep in radiation.
Reinforced Cement Concrete
This is regarded as the most important type of concrete. Steel is used as reinforcement in the production process, giving it very high tensile strength. The combination of steel and concrete leads to building material that can withstand all kinds of stress in construction. This is why it is used in large scale constructions such as stadiums, dams, tall buildings, and more.
This refers to concrete shapes cast into molds on-site or in a factory. Made of water, aggregates, and cement, they are used in construction after they’ve been set and hardened in a controlled environment. You’ll find precast concrete on fence posts, electric poles, concrete blocks, staircase units, concrete lintels, and more.
Air Entrained Concrete
In this specially prepared plain concrete, air is entrained in the form of thousands of uniformly distributed particles, making up to 6% of the concrete. The entrainment is achieved by adding some gas-forming agents (such as resins and fatty alcohols) while mixing the concrete. Air entrained concrete is used in constructions where it is important to avoid damage due to scaling or constant freezing and thawing.
In this type of concrete, recycled glass is used as an aggregate. Such concrete provides better thermal insulation and is more aesthetically pleasing compared to other types of concrete.
Rapid Hardening Concrete
This is the type of concrete used in repairing roads, and in underwater construction. Once poured, it can harden under a few hours. They are a favorite in many construction projects where the work has to be completed quickly.
Asphalt concrete is a mixture of aggregates and asphalt. They are seen in airports, embankments, and on highways. This type of concrete also hardens quickly, which explains why it is popularly used in roads.
Lime is used as the binding material in this type of concrete. Before cement was introduced in the construction world, lime concrete was the most commonly used concrete type. Even with cement today, lime concrete is still used in domes and floors.
Roller Compacted Concrete
Roller compacted concrete is generally used as a filling material. The mix doesn’t have the same strength as other types of concrete, and thus, it has to be compacted with the help of heavy machinery such as rollers. The quantity of cement used in this type of concrete is often lower than in other types.
Stamped concrete doesn’t really have any structural differences from standard concrete. The main difference is that it is stamped with shapes and designs when it is still in its pliable form. Colors may also be used to enhance the overall appearance. Such concrete is used in residential architecture design in many cases.
Pumped concrete is used in high-rise construction where there are likely no other feasible means of transporting the concrete. It is designed to work smoothly with the conveyance system, so fine materials are used in the mixture.
Fiber Reinforced Concrete
This is another important type of concrete used in construction projects where resistance to cracking is very important, such as in airports, bridges, and industrial floors. Steel fibers 10 to 20 microns in diameter and 10 to 50 mm in length are used in the construction process to increase tensile strength, flexibility, and resilience. The fiber used can be steel, glass, polymer, or natural.
Fly Ash Concrete
This type of concrete contains fly ash (derived from coal). The fly ash is used to replace fine aggregates or cement, and can also partially replace both. This type of concrete is more pliable when fresh and very strong when it’s hardened.
How to Find a Good Concrete Contractor
Now that you know all the benefits of concrete in construction and the most common types to use in various applications, it is time to find a contractor you can trust to deliver on the job.
Here’s what you should do:
- Research extensively. First, you need to understand the type of project you want to do and then look around for contractors that can deliver. Take recommendations from your friends and family and also find possible options online. Go with the most experienced and most well-prepared options, and you’ll not have to worry about inadequate insurance cover, the possibility of not getting the job done properly, etc.
- Discuss and document. Once you’ve found some possible contractors, go over your construction needs with them and make sure to get details like schedule, materials required, and payment into a contract.
- Gauge your interactions. Can you trust the contractor to communicate effectively throughout the process? How well have they answered your questions?
- Compare quotes. You should have at least three price quotes from experienced and respected contractors. Compare the prices, paying attention to what is covered in the contract, and the quality of work you should expect.
From pavements and motorways to overpasses and buildings, concrete is all around us. Few building materials can offer the same level of durability it provides in construction projects, and it can be produced on any site where cement, sand, and water are readily available. It may be slightly costlier compared to building with wood, but over time, concrete will almost certainly deliver better value for money.
To enjoy the benefits of concrete, however, it is important to choose the right type of concrete for the project. You should pay attention to the recommendation of professional builders at this point as a property owner.
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