For the Love of Concrete

An early estimate was that 50,000 people would be attending the 39th World of Concrete at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
Photo by Diane Taylor

Before I began attending trade shows, the idea of educational sessions and a trade show called “The World of Concrete” seemed laughable. However, after attending the show and doing a bit of research, “funny” has changed to “wow!”

Concrete is the most used man-made product in the world and dates back thousands of years. The Colosseum is largely built of concrete, as is the Panama Canal and Dubai’s World’s Tallest Building, Burj Khalifa. These days, with the introduction of colored concrete, stamped concrete and concrete stain, concrete has even become fashionable, used for residential flooring, fireplace surrounds, furniture, kitchen and bathroom counter tops, etc.

The basic ingredients of concrete are Portland cement, water and aggregates (rock and sand). The cement and water form a paste that coats the aggregate and sand in the mix. The paste hardens and binds the aggregates and sand together. Water is needed to chemically react with the cement and to provide workability (the flow) of the concrete. The amount of water in the mix in pounds compared with the amount of cement is called the water/cement ratio. The lower the water/cement ratio, the stronger and less porous the concrete.

A young trade show visitor from Utah is fascinated by the seeming free-standing ball enjoying an air ride from a Pullman-Holt F600 blower.
Photo by Diane Taylor

The world’s largest concrete structure? The Three Gorges Dam in China consuming 35 million cubic yards of concrete. Other fun facts:

*Thomas Edison was the first to contract and live in a precast concrete home.

*In 1891, George Bartholomew placed the first concrete street in the U.S.A. in Bellefontaine Ohio and it still exists today. A section of Bellefontaine’s concrete pavement won first prize for achievement in engineering technology at Chicago’s World Fair in 1893. Later tests revealed the pavement, which trapped many small air bubbles, attained a breaking strength of 8,000 pounds per square inch, much stronger than most concrete used today.

*In 1903, the first concrete high rise was built in Cincinnati, Ohio.

*In 1936, the first major concrete dams, Hoover Dam and Grand Coulee Dam, were built.

*Heavy trucks get up to 20 percent better mileage on concrete rather than asphalt.

*Over 70 percent of the world’s population lives in a structure that contains concrete.

Yes, concrete has always been, and is, alive and well. Everyone who has anything to do with concrete comes to Las Vegas for the World of Concrete educational sessions and trade show. Once again, this reporter “covered” the trade show, exhibiting a rather naive and sometimes concrete-riddled brain when it comes to understanding the industry. But oh my, did we see some pretty concrete.