It’s pretty hard to imagine the world without concrete – what would we use in place of this material to replace its incredible strength and versatility? Concrete, the man-made product, has been used around the globe to build anything and everything from our largest highways to our kitchen worktops!

The world has been using concrete since ancient times. In 700 BC bedouin people created a concrete-like material to build underground tunnels to help them survive in the dry and hot desert. Today, more than 7 billion cubic metres of concrete are produced every year – it’s used for so much. 

Here are 5 facts you didn’t know about concrete:

  • The only building material that is extremely resistant to fire and water is… reinforced concrete!

Concrete is completely fireproof – it won’t set on fire or burn, and it won’t release fumes if it comes in contact with fire. It’s effectively a fire shield. 

Concrete is also naturally water-resistant but the use of special additives can make it almost completely waterproof. This is great for underground structures like car parks and basements. 

  • The very first concrete highway was built in just 1090

The earliest concrete road was built in North-West Detroit. This was on Woodward Avenue in Greenfield Township. It was just a mile long, and cost $13,492 built by the Wayne Country Road Commission. Before this, roads were being built with bricks or cobblestones, or a tar and stone mix named Macam – quite a bumpy ride!

  • China is home to the world’s largest concrete structure in existence. 

The Three Gorges Dam at China’s Yangtze River sits at 185 metres high and an astonishing 2,309 metres long – the world largest concrete structure. This colossal dam took 10 years to build and was finished in 2006. 

The dam’s power station, using hydroelectric power, of course, can generate a huge 22,500 mW of energy. 

  • Concrete and cement are not the same things!

Those who work in construction or like DIY will already know this one.

Cement is actually an ingredient in concrete. Concrete is a mix of 60-65% aggregates such as sand, crushed stone, and gravel, with 15-20% water and 10-15% cement. When combined, the cement and water harden, holding together the aggregates to form concrete. 

  • The British Army used concrete to detect when enemy aircraft were nearby.

Before radar systems were around, in the early days of World War Two, giant concrete sound reflectors were constructed along England’s coast. These acoustic mirrors nicknamed ‘listening ears’ picked up the sound of the aircraft from great distances, and were used as a warning sign.