Why commercial buildings are made of concrete

Concrete is one of the most common building materials on earth. It’s used in everything from high-rises to patios. And just about every commercial building is made of it. But why concrete, and not something else?

The history of concrete

It’s unclear where exactly concrete started, but we know it was used in structures as far back as the ancient Mayans and the Middle Eastern Nabatean people. The Romans built incredible structures from it, some of which still stand today. Some Roman concrete used technology that was largely forgotten. It took a while to get back to its former glory.

In the 1800s, a new mixture called Portland cement made it easier to create strong concrete. And in 1849, when Joseph Monier created reinforced concrete, the foundation of modern commercial construction was laid.

Skyscrapers, bridges, and other major structures were the beneficiaries of the reinforced concrete discovery. Major cities blossomed. Building upward instead of outward became possible.

After World War II, Europe saw a massive boom in concrete production and demand as the continent rebuilt. Brutalist architecture used vast quantities of the building material, and it became the distinctive look of many war-torn areas.

Today concrete is all around us, and its use shows no sign of slowing.

So why concrete?

Concrete can be made from common and cheap materials—clay, limestone, and stone aggregate. Newer types of cement include more ingredients than Portland cement creator Joseph Aspdin’s first crude attempts, but the foundation remains the same.

The fact that concrete can be formed in place makes it a natural fit for most construction applications. Think of forming a foundation—before concrete, you would have had to create a foundation out of stone or brick, which are harder to transport and require more work for installation.

Concrete’s physical attributes make it an excellent fit for commercial construction too. It’s a good insulator, it’s inherently fire-resistant, and it’s strong. With very light maintenance, concrete can last for decades, sometimes even centuries. Without it, we’d live in a very different world. That’s why your commercial building is made from concrete.