The Endless World of Construction Materials

Be it a high-rise with bespoke 2-bedroom apartments in London on rent or a banking commercial complex in Manchester, construction wonders are all around us. When you look up and marvel at any of these buildings or architectural structures, you rarely notice what they are made of.

When it comes to buildings, the construction and materials in use not only determine the strength, durability and stability of these structures but also define their aesthetic appeal and charm.

Since ancient times, human civilization has been using a variety of construction materials to build stable structures. Built with natural materials like stones and wood, even today, some ancient structures stand tall and proud.

However, with rapid urbanisation came the clarion call for affordable homes in the form of urban housing complexes and apartment blocks. This led to reduced use of natural building materials and an increase in man-made materials in construction projects.

With the limited availability of naturally occurring materials and the hazards of using more artificial materials, we are now leaning towards eco-friendly construction components.

In this article, we’ll explore the various properties of construction materials in the civil engineering sector.

Construction materials & their properties

1. Concrete

Concrete is a building material consisting proportionate quantities of sand, aggregate, cement and water. It is an essential component of any civil engineering project as it is used for building the foundation, slabs, beams, and columns necessary for a strong structural foundation.

Properties and Types of Concrete

Initially, in a wet state, concrete is malleable but over time it solidifies and lends its durability and strength to the structure. You’ll find more than thirty types and subtypes of concrete with differing compositions and applications. The grade of the concrete denotes its strength.

Fibre-reinforced concrete, air-entrained concrete, carbon-negative concrete, ready-mix concrete, and asphalt concrete are only a few examples of the types of concrete used in the construction sector.

Innovations in Concrete

While concrete is a very durable material for building projects, processing concrete releases a considerable amount of emissions, taking a serious toll on our planet and warranting the need for sustainable alternatives.

Carbon-negative concrete or CO2-absorbing concrete is an innovative material that not only reduces CO2 emissions during its production but also absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere during its lifespan. Using eco-friendly concrete, you can guarantee a win-win situation – a sustainable structure along with a reduction in CO2 emissions.

2. Aggregates

The construction industry relies heavily on aggregates as a core component for a range of building materials, pushing demand for quality aggregate suppliers. The term aggregate corresponds to loose pieces of stones in varying sizes, ranging from fine sand to coarse rocks obtained from crushing naturally occurring rocks.

Limitedly used on their own, the core function of construction aggregates is to give volume to concrete and make it more economical. Due to their high conductivity and resistance against shrinking and cracking, they are frequently used in drainage works and drainage applications.

Properties and Types of Aggregates

There are two types of aggregates, namely fine aggregates and coarse aggregates.

Fine aggregates include sand and crushed stone particles a quarter inch in size or small enough to pass through a 4.75 mm sieve. As a fine aggregate, sand is heavily in demand and is used with concrete, mortar, glass and bricks. Pit sand, river sand, sea sand, clayey sand and silty sand are just a few examples of fine sand aggregates.

Coarse aggregates are made up of particles larger in size with angular and cubical shapes. They are widely used in the construction of roads, paths and driveways, rainwater harvesting works, and railway tracks for railway ballast by helping in uniform load distribution. Gravel, air-cooled slag, and crushed stone are the common types of coarse aggregates used in building projects.

Innovations in Aggregates

Aggregate suppliers are using inventive ways to promote sustainability in building materials. One such innovation include recycled aggregates, crafted by upcycling construction waste streams of concrete, asphalt and slag. These aggregates are formed by separating, crushing and washing the waste materials to reuse again for various building applications. This approach helps build a circular economy in the construction sector.

3. Cement

Known for its versatility, almost every type of structure needs cement. Used as a binding agent, cement is a mix of limestone, clay and sand along with other components. You’ll find cement mixes with mortar or concrete as the key component in contemporary structures such as high-rise buildings, dams, and bridges.

Properties and Types of Cement

Of the different types of cement, portland cement is a popular choice for modern structures. Additionally, you’ll also find rapid-hardening cement, portland pozzolana cement, white cement, air-entraining cement, sulfate-resisting cement and low-heat cement in use for numerous applications.

On its own, cement can be used for constructing watertight structures, building foundations, and any other structural elements. In combination with concrete, cement is used for constructing columns, beams and slabs. It is also used for preparing mortar needed for masonry works like plastering.

Innovations in Cement

Growing research in the construction sector has given rise to innovative cement solutions as well as alternatives to cement. Innovation in concrete goes beyond just strength and structure. The inclusion of supplementary cementitious materials  like fly ash, slag and calcined clay reduce the environmental impact of cement production while simultaneously enhancing the durability and strength of concrete.

To Sum Up

The world of construction materials is indeed endless with scope to bring new and innovative solutions on board to address lingering construction challenges. No matter what structure you plan to construct, the involvement of these materials just cannot be ignored. From natural to artificial to upcycled components, the scope of materials in the construction sector keeps widening.

John Jeffreys

John Jeffreys, is an expert in the world of real estate. With years of experience and an in-depth understanding of the market, he has become a trusted source for valuable insights and advice on buying and selling properties. Through engaging posts and articles, he share practical tips and expert guidance, helping individuals navigate the complex process of real estate transactions.

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