Concrete possesses such a multitude of outstandingly useful properties that a fair number of them are totally unrecognized and others are rarely mentioned. For example, concrete is a "forgiving" material in the same sense that airplane pilots use that expression to describe a plane which automatically adjusts for pilot errors. In a less-than-perfect world it is fortunate that we have a few materials, like concrete, which are capable of adjusting for the performance of less-than-perfect men.
Concrete is without a doubt the most responsive of all materials used in construction. For good or ill, steel, glass, aluminum, brick, wood and all other materials we use in construction come to the jobsite with all of their capabilities fully established. Only plastic concrete offers the designer and builder a material whose ultimate properties can be finely tuned on the design board, at the batch plant and on the jobsite, to the true needs and purposes of the structure. For the uninformed and the misinformed, for the inept and the dishonest, this particular characteristic of concrete can be a booby trap. But for honest designers and builders it provides a glorious opportunity to release and employ all of the best qualities of true craftsmanship.
The very versatility of concrete inevitably produces a steady stream of new challenges to our industry's collective ability to solve problems, and this simple and altogether fortunate fact of life often clouds our perception of our industry's awesome achievements. Our fragmented industry regularly produces both major and minor miracles precisely because it is fragmented; there is much, much more in the record of our stewardship of concrete to be proud of than to deplore.