Bernie Erlin

Ten years ago Bill Hime and I were pleased to talk about Concrete Construction Magazine's 50th anniversary in our column article “A Long or Short 50 Years” in its September 2006 issue. Now, 10 years later, it’s “A Longer or Shorter 60 versus 50 Years”. For us it has been shorter and faster – because now we congratulate CC on its 60th anniversary after what seems like several blinks of the eye.

In that past article we recounted our earlier professional years in the cement and concrete industries; the nationalization and beginning of internationalization of portland cement ownership and cement distribution; the steady infiltration of first fly ash and subsequently ground granulated blast-furnace slag; the increased upward strength requirement needs for old and new types of construction; the acceptance and use of all types of admixtures; a better understanding of the deleterious phenomena that tears concrete apart; our long-time friend durability; and gave thanks to Bill Avery the founder of CC.

The future is driven by the past and directly reflects enhancements of past accomplishments without which new upgraded norms cannot be established. About 50 years ago, Bill and I listened to someone, name now forgotten, in the hierarchy of Russian portland cement research who discussed a concept of portland cement of the future. It was simple, grind clinker to an ultra, ultra, ultra fine powder (along with interblended fly ash, slag, etc.) to the point that it will instantaneously hydrate, and control the time of concrete setting and hardening and other properties, using varieties of admixtures – most of which even now need development – along with an unleashed secret to efficient grinding.

The 1989 ASTM Volume on Concrete and Aggregates was nominally 1-inch thick – the 2015 Volume is 1-1/8-inch thick – a 12.5 percent volume increase over a period of 26 years. Barring a change in paperweight, if that reflects progress, it beats inflation and the 10.6 percent growth of the stock market, and attests to our engineering and materials ingenuity.

Maybe that kind of growth is also in the next 60-year bundle, where somewhere in secrecy, and maybe as a wish, that finer grind will happen and a host of new admixtures developed. But current reality dictates it will even take longer. We initially waited 50 years since CC’s birth for the slow early accomplishments, and then another 10 years as those accomplishments developed and were accepted – creating new norms. Development continues – so what will another fleeting 60 years of progress bring in addition to the 120th anniversary of CC?

The speed of time sometimes seems to slow invention and progress, but doesn’t stop it. We are proud of the past 60-years of progress and optimistic about the wonders it will bring.