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How Architectural Concrete Is Influencing Building Design

Building design is being influenced by many things including cultural values and even building materials.
Advancements in the formulas of various types of concrete have allowed more flowing shapes for
buildings without sacrificing structural integrity and more and more architects are incorporating it in their designs. Humans have been building with stones since before recorded history and finding new ways of combining them to create better structures.

From mixing limestone with clay, cement, to adding gravel, sand and water to that mixture to get cement, and even by adding reinforcing bars to cure in it. As more silicate-based chemistry is applied to building materials, concrete is becoming ever more efficient to use.

What Is Architectural Concrete?

Architectural concrete uses silicate-based chemistry to develop the most effective hardeners, finishes and densifiers for all types of building needs. Leading companies, such as Convergent Technologies, can help you find the right products for almost any building project as well as help you find the current and future limits of building with this material.

Concrete is made from a mixture of cement, aggregates and additives such as pigments. Once the concrete is properly cured, it is sanded and cleaned for a surface treatment that can further harden and protect the material. The forms used are made by a formwork team and designed in cooperation with the architect to make sure that everything has the correct specifications from the beginning.

What Is the History?

Cement, a mixture of clay and limestone, is added to gravel, sand and water to create concrete and has
been found in many ancient structures including those in Rome. It was later rediscovered during the Renaissance from ancient Roman writings and has been evolving ever since.

Modern concrete uses reinforcing bars, or rebar, to make reinforced concrete with less of a tendency to crack as well as various hardeners and finishes to produce everything from showroom floors to the sweeping and curving forms of Santiago Calatrava’s auditorium in the Canary Islands.

Looking to the future can mean determining how Roman concrete is waterproof and how to apply that ability to reinforced concrete for better structures moving forward.

How Can It Be Used?

Concrete can be, and has been, used in everything from freeway dividers to skyscrapers to provide a
strong and durable product. The mixture of materials creates a slurry which will harden into the shape of the form. Rebar is usually placed in the form first with the slurry poured over it.

Over time, the rebar will oxidize and degrade within the concrete, but it takes decades for the rusting bars to crack the surrounding material and most structures will last a hundred years without major repairs. With the right coating, curing and additives, you can create outdoor sculptures, building foundations and even wall panels out of concrete.

Designing buildings to have finished concrete floors can not only add amazing aesthetics to the interior, but also cut down on costs and on building maintenance. It is important to research the materials you need to use for the application that you have because some additives and finishes will work better than others in specific situations. For example, exterior concrete will need to be protected against the weather.

How Does It Work?

Concrete needs a form to be able to cure into the shape that you want. This means that a designer will
be working closely with a building construction team to make the appropriate forms as well as ensure that you have the proper materials such as releasing agents, pigments and mix of cement and aggregates.

The formwork team will have different systems for the various shapes you will need
including circular elements, wall panels or even girders. New formulations of cement and aggregates have allowed thinner applications of concrete and expanded the number of shapes and structural elements you can make out of it.

Once the structural elements are cured, they will be washed and sanded for the texture necessary for the building designs and treated with chemicals to give it an appropriate finish. Most finishing treatments will be designed to permeate a bit into the concrete to better adhere to it and be more durable.

What Kinds of Buildings?

Because building codes are different around the world, you may not be able to use concrete for everything. However, many modern buildings are featuring rounded corners, sweeping shapes and free- standing curves made from this material.

Some structures have a steel frame with concrete elements, and some are made entirely out of this reinforced material. A skilled architect can bring a vision to fruition with a little research into the specifics of this material.

Modern building design is using architectural concrete to bring to life various structures. From boxy officebuildings to rounded concert halls, this material can be formed to nearly any shape your design calls for. With the right additives and finishes, you can even have faux marble floors in your garage or towering curves over your entertainment venues.

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