Emerging Trends in Concrete Masonry
Since the first concrete block was molded in 1882, concrete masonry has been the literal foundation of the majority of residential and commercial building in the United States. Although used predominately for constructing exterior walls, concrete can also be used to build almost anything that needs to be fireproof, from retaining walls to chimneys and fireplaces to elevator shafts and storage vaults, making it one of the most reliable and utilized building materials available.
However, while the dependability of concrete is a given, it’s not considered to be a particularly exciting or trendy material. That is all about to change, though, as emerging trends in concrete masonry are bringing this tried and true material into a new and intriguing light.
The New Versatility of Concrete
Recent trends in concrete have introduced some truly appealing alternatives to the masonry standard. Optical fibers, self-consolidating concrete, decorative concrete, and the use of insulating concrete forms in commercial construction are all intriguing new products that are poised to elevate concrete masonry to new heights.
- Optical Fibers in Concrete Mix
Created by placing thousands of optical fiber strands into concrete, this mix can transmit both natural and artificial light into the spaces surrounded by translucent concrete panels. The fibers are inserted into the panels in a parallel fashion, which allows them to transmit light between the concrete surfaces they are in. The thickness of these fibers can vary between 2 µm and 2 mm, which allows for differences in light transmission, and the fibers are so effective that the colors can even be seen through the concrete itself.
- Self-Consolidating Concrete
Although Self-Consolidating Concrete, or SCC, was first created in the 1980’s, its usage has only become more popular in recent years, thanks to the development of high performance polycarboxylate polymers and viscosity modifiers, which have enabled SCC to flow more easily without affecting its durability. The unique flowing and non-segregating properties of SCC gives it significant advantages-it’s more economical, easy to use, aesthetically pleasing, and increases the soundness of a building’s engineering. SCC also helps reduce labor costs, lowers noise levels, and increases the safety of the working environment, making it one of the most popular masonry choices available today.
- Insulating Concrete Forms For Commercial Construction
Used for years in residential construction, insulating concrete forms, or ICFs, have gained popularity in commercial construction to the extent that over one-third of ICF structures now built are commercial. Created by stacking hollow foam blocks or panels into the shape of walls and then filling these shapes with steel-reinforced concrete, ICFs are one of the easiest and most durable concrete options. Walls created with ICFs are strong, highly insulated, air-tight, and resistant to pests and fires and the variety of available ICF shapes and sizes make them an ideal choice for creating smaller, custom-designed commercial structures such as hotels, churches, and shopping centers. ICF high R-value insulation, concrete thermal mass, and temperature modulating abilities also increase energy efficiency and cut operating costs, while the strength of ICF structures offer special protection in areas with high earthquake activity.
- Decorative Concrete
Used to create aesthetically pleasing structures, decorative concrete is made by utilizing specials forms, finishing techniques, and color ingredients, either during the pouring process or after the concrete is cured. Decorative concrete can range from stamped concrete to acid staining to vertical overlays, but one of the most innovative ways to use this type of building material is by adding vibrant new coloring agents to standard white cement concrete. The versatility of standard white cement concrete allows for a broad spectrum of unique colors, from super bright whites to soft pastels to brilliantly saturated colors. The specially colored decorative concrete can then be textured, shaped, or patterned into almost form, giving designers and masons the freedom to create visually appealing structures that stand out anywhere.
Whether you have been hired for a large or small concrete masonry job, using one of these modern concrete options will allow you to rise above the competition. By utilizing newer concrete techniques to create unique structures, you renew the excitement of the masonry work you do and increase the appeal of your company’s brand.
Article courtesy of Adrian Steel. Since 1953, Adrian Steel of Adrian, Michigan has been a leader in providing innovative commercial cargo management solutions. With a wide variety of upfit packages, ladder racks, and aluminum toolboxes designed to fit the needs of all industries, including concrete masonry, Adrian Steel can help you create a commercial vehicle fleet that is organized, functional, and visually pleasing. For more information, please visit www.adriansteel.com or call 800-677-2726.