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Public and commercial structures such as schools, hospitals, malls and government buildings require additional safety measures like strength and reliability that bricks and composite building blocks fail to deliver. This is the reason why architects and civil engineers employ poured concrete walls for these buildings, which beats any other building method in the following five critical areas.
Poured concrete is by far the safest and the most durable building material. Civil engineers, who deal in precise numbers and material specifications, set apart two components of strength that make poured concrete stand above concrete blocks: compressive strength – the capacity of a material (in this case, poured concrete) to withstand loads tending to reduce size; and flexural strength – the ability of a material to resist deformation under load (in case of poured concrete, to bulge inward from the forces applied to the outer perimeter or applied downward). Aside from excellent static properties, poured concrete structures are highly resistant to hurricanes, floods and earthquakes as well.
Concrete is inherently water resilient and very suitable for constructions designed to be waterproof or water resilient. As far as commercial or residential buildings are concerned, poured concrete walls dramatically reduce basement water issues. A waterproof basement means fewer maintenance problems and more useful space. The degree to which the structure keeps water out depends on the concrete specifications and design details (such as corner junctions). In case of floods, poured concrete buildings are designed with two things in mind: water exclusion strategy – a set of measures that prevent flood water from entering the building, and water entry strategy – measures that reduce the impact of flood water on the property once water has entered.
Although its mechanical properties decrease in extremely high temperatures, concrete is virtually non-combustible due to its main components – limestone, gypsum and clay. While no building material is completely fire resistant, concrete has the highest fire rating of all construction materials. That being said, solid concrete walls are at least twice as fire retardant as hollow concrete blocks. In addition, concrete doesn’t emit toxic fumes when affected by fire. It doesn’t produce smoke or drip molten particles, either. Finally, the airtight construction of poured concrete buildings prevents fire and smoke from spreading and improves the building’s durability during a fire.
A building made of poured concrete or concrete panels is more cost-effective than a building made of normal bricks or concrete blocks. Firstly, in case of tilt up construction, the whole process takes place on the site, which eliminates hefty transportation costs – the panels are cast out on-site and once dry, tilted upright using a crane. Secondly, builders use a term ‘thermal mass’ to refer to the ability of construction materials to absorb, store and release heat. This property is important as it helps to regulate the temperature in buildings. Heavyweight materials like concrete provide high thermal mass. In other words, concrete walls keep the interior of the building cooler for a longer time and indirectly decrease power consumption during hot summers. In cold weather, on the other hand, concrete walls retain the heat inside longer than other building materials.
Poured concrete is architects’ favourite material, as it allows for a ton of flexibility in design. As it starts as a liquid, it can be moulded, cast and poured into virtually any shape including arcs, ogees, serpentines and other exotic architectural elements. Details like these are far beyond the possibilities concrete blocks or even bricks allow. On top of that, poured concrete technique offers rapid, yet precise structural progress, with cost efficiency derived from design, labour time and on-site handling.
With such strong (pun intended) arguments that speak in favour of poured concrete, it’s truly hard (another one) not to consider it a prime building material. Even if the strength component is taken out of the equation, fire and water resistance make it an excellent choice for both commercial and residential structures.