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Concrete Planet: The Strange and Fascinating Story of the World's Most Common Man-Made Material

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Concrete Planet: The Strange and Fascinating Story of the World's Most Common Man-Made Material Cover

ISBN13: 9781616144814
ISBN10: 1616144815
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Publisher Comments:

Concrete: We use it for our buildings, bridges, dams, and roads. We walk on it, drive on it, and many of us live and work within its walls. But very few of us know what it is. We take for granted this ubiquitous substance, which both literally and figuratively comprises much of modern civilization’s constructed environment; yet the story of its creation and development features a cast of fascinating characters and remarkable historical episodes. This book delves into this history, opening readers’ eyes at every turn.

In a lively narrative peppered with intriguing details, author Robert Corland describes how some of the most famous personalities of history became involved in the development and use of concrete—including King Herod the Great of Judea, the Roman emperor Hadrian, Thomas Edison (who once owned the largest concrete cement plant in the world), and architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Courland points to recent archaeological evidence suggesting that the discovery of concrete directly led to the Neolithic Revolution and the rise of the earliest civilizations. Much later, the Romans reached extraordinarily high standards for concrete production, showcasing their achievement in iconic buildings like the Coliseum and the Pantheon. Amazingly, with the fall of the Roman Empire, the secrets of concrete manufacturing were lost for over a millennium.

The author explains that when concrete was rediscovered in the late eighteenth century it was initially viewed as an interesting novelty or, at best, a specialized building material suitable only for a narrow range of applications. It was only toward the end of the nineteenth century that the use of concrete exploded. During this rapid expansion, industry lobbyists tried to disguise the fact that modern concrete had certain defects and critical shortcomings. It is now recognized that modern concrete, unlike its Roman predecessor, gradually disintegrates with age. Compounding this problem is another distressing fact: the manufacture of concrete cement is a major contributor to global warming.

Concrete Planet is filled with incredible stories, fascinating characters, surprising facts, and an array of intriguing insights into the building material that forms the basis of the infrastructure on which we depend.

Book News Annotation:

Courland, author of The Old North Waterfront offers an entertaining history of concrete for general readers. Arranged chronologically, chapters move from the origins of concrete with the discovery of lime, through its suggested use in the Egyptian pyramids, Roman concrete, concrete in Mesoamerica and Renaissance Europe, the development of modern concrete, refinements, and the concretization of the world. Black and white photographs complement the text. Dennis Smith, author of Report from Ground Zero provides a foreward. Annotation ©2012 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

About the Author

Robert Courland is the author of The Old North Waterfront, which won a special-achievement award from the California Heritage Council, and, with Walt Crowley, The Fairmont Hotel: The First Century of a San Francisco Landmark. He has also written magazine articles, television commercials, and screenplays.

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illegitimi non carborundum, October 27, 2012 (view all comments by illegitimi non carborundum)
Concrete Planet is a thorough retelling of the history of the modern world's most common building material. Courland tears down our preconceptions and culturally sanctioned beliefs about concrete one after another, most frighteningly discrediting its strength and longevity. As a construction contractor I remember my early experiences with steel reinforced concrete, and finding it odd that we seal rusted rebar inside of a fairly water-permeable substance. Doesn't the steel continue to rust, and what good is it after it does? This book lays out the case that rebar inside of concrete does, in fact, continue to rust. Rebar does not simply disintegrate but expands and cracks the concrete around it until failure occurs at most at about 100 years after the structure was built. The ramifications for this are massive as we speed toward the century mark for most of the initial highway infrastructure in the United States. Concrete bridges and freeway overpasses will never appear the same to you after reading this book. You'll find yourself scanning for cracks in the undersides of your city's freeway inter-changes as you wonder how much longer they have. Why have we collectively accepted concrete as an earthquake and fireproof permanent building material? Concrete Planet describes the potential conspiracy in the aftermath of the 1906 San Francisco quake in which concrete advocates may have overstated its resilience. There is far more to this tome than just a chicken little scenario come true, Courland enticingly describes some of history's most amazing and daring engineering projects involving concrete, including the first tunnel dug under the Thames River in London. He also describes the highly successful use of concrete's compressive strength without the use of steel in brilliant constructions such as the Pantheon in Rome, the longest lived concrete structure in the world. He follows the story from the discovery of lime in the earliest days within the cradle of civilization, to the perfection of concrete by the ancient Romans. Courland skips over concrete's subsequent disappearance for several centuries and then picks up its cautious and slow re-emergence in 18th century Western Europe. Part documentary, part lesson, and part warning, this book informs and inspires readers to examine the world around them that they may have taken for granted and realize it's not all as solid as they might think.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9781616144814
Author:
Courland, Robert
Publisher:
Prometheus Books
Author:
Smith, Dennis
Subject:
Science Reference-General
Subject:
Engineering -- History.
Subject:
General science
Publication Date:
20111131
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Language:
English
Pages:
396
Dimensions:
9.3 x 6.3 x 1.06 in 1.5 lb

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