Concrete dates back to the Roman Empire where it was a widely used building material. At the time, concrete was devised of volcanic ash, or pozzolana and chunks of volcanic rock. 1,400 years later, concrete was rediscovered. In mid 19th-centry France, Ernest Ransome popularized reinforced concrete; his method poured concrete over iron (later steel) bars to improve its tensile strength. In 1903, the first concrete skyscraper was erected, the 16-story building was made possible thanks to Ransome's innovate bar method. Concrete's capabilities also flourished in Ohio, where the first concrete street beat out the widely-used asphalt roads due to its increased durability. Thomas Edison was inspired to design and create cast-in-place concrete homes, which he envisioned would be mass-produced, minimizing construction time and resources. Though Edison's vision never really took off, it did continue to inspire others to push concrete's capabilities. Frank Lloyd Wright's Unity Temple in Oak Park, Illi., considered the world's first modern building, is made of reinforced concrete. Presently, concrete continues to be reinvented.
Despite growing environmental concerns, concrete remains the material of choice for most builders, with 3D printing technologies offering it new life: think Shanghai’s 3D printed bridge unveiled earlier this year, the US military’s plans to 3D-print troop barracks, and plans in Eindhoven in the Netherlands to build the world’s first habitable 3D-printed concrete houses.Read More