Steel and concrete are both used in building various structures, but a resurgence in the popularity of concrete tells us that it offers numerous advantages over steel. Nevertheless, to choose between one or the other requires that you take into consideration all other aspects of the structure you’re creating because there is no one solution that is right for all structures. Let’s take a look at this issue a little closer.
The Advantages of a Concrete Structure
In the 1970s, people considered concrete to be functional but not attractive, but thanks to the style of architecture known as brutalism, this has changed. Suddenly, exposed concrete and brick started being used as a design feature, and that trend continues today. One of the reasons for this is that abandoned buildings are often taken over and turned into housing opportunities such as apartment buildings and even office spaces. Concrete presents a rather “natural” look adds a little character to the structure itself.
But in addition to the way concrete looks, it offers other advantages as well, one of those being its strength. In fact, concrete, in general, offers numerous perks, including the following:
- It is fire-resistant.
- It can be purchased locally and doesn’t have to be shipped.
- It is very affordable.
- It is extremely durable and strong.
- It can be made into various shapes.
For these reasons and numerous others, the trend of using concrete in architecture is not likely to go away anytime soon.
Concrete vs. Steel Structures
As mentioned, using concrete, as opposed to steel, works better in some structures than it does in others. That being said, concrete does offer certain advantages over steel. For starters, concrete is made from a mixture of fine and coarse aggregates that are bonded together with cement, then allowed to dry so it can become rigid. You can even vary the strength of concrete by using different proportions of the materials used to make it.
Both concrete and steel have advantages and disadvantages. Concrete can be made into different strengths easily, providing both sound and thermal insulation, it’s very low maintenance, and can withstand very high temperatures. On the other hand, this material has low tensile strength, a high strength-to-weight ratio, and is much less ductile than steel. The perks mentioned here are why many construction projects choose it over steel.
On the other hand, steel offers perks that include its ability to handle a lot of external pressure and the fact that it requires less time in construction projects. Additionally, steel can be fabricated on site, is termite- and rot-proof, and doesn’t require the use of formworks. That being said, steel has the disadvantages of requiring a lot of skilled workers to complete the project, has a very high initial cost, and is very susceptible to corrosion. For any project, the contractor in charge has to weigh all of the advantages and disadvantages of each material to decide which one will work best in that particular situation.
There is also the use of shotcrete, which many contractors prefer over standard concrete. Simply put, the former is simply a type of the latter, with the main difference being that concrete is applied with the use of a mixing truck, while shotcrete is applied using something called a cement gun. When you’re creating a very large structure, concrete is your best option, whereas shotcrete can be used in smaller jobs because larger jobs would simply take too long to complete.
The Advantage of Shotcrete over Concrete
So why is shotcrete more advantageous than concrete in some instances? For one thing, it doesn’t have to be compacted or mixed as concrete does, which saves the company on both time and labor costs. In addition, the gun used to apply the shotcrete means the material will bond better to other materials than concrete does. This makes it perfect when your construction project involves complicated spaces and shapes that may be difficult to reach if you’re using a mixing truck.
With shotcrete, the material is applied at a high velocity through a hose, and it is often called gunite or sprayed concrete. Since the cement content is very high in shotcrete, it is a very durable product. It has low permeability and is very resistant to things such as fire, worms, most disasters, and mold. And because it requires less formwork, the entire project will almost always cost much less. Start-ups, cleaning ups, and shutdowns are all much easier because of such characteristics.
How Is Shotcrete Used?
As mentioned earlier, shotcrete is used for smaller or hard-to-reach places, which makes it super-convenient for many construction projects. Some of its many uses include:
- Restoration of certain marine pieces, including piers and bulkheads, among others
- Protection of reinforced concrete for structures such as bridges, crop handling, etc.
- In underground openings in tunnels, drainage, and exploitative audits, etc.
- To provide support and stabilization of excavation foundations in rock slopes
- Protection of channel linings and stabilization of debris flows
There are certain disadvantages to using shotcrete, but most of them you can work around if you know how. For instance, if it’s too windy outside, the operator can have trouble operating the cement gun, which can alter the look of the project. The workers also have to be experienced and have very detailed geotechnical information. Rainwater can also cause problems with the shotcrete, and the tools used to apply the mixture have to be used properly at all times.
Still, if your workers know what they’re doing and have a little experience under their belt, shotcrete is a great method to utilize for numerous architectural projects. If you’re laying a foundation, concrete will naturally be better because it’s a very large area, but otherwise, this is not the case. To be sure, modern architecture increasingly uses concrete in various forms, so it’s going to be around for a while. Because of this, your best bet is to decide what type of concrete you’re going to use and learn the differences between that and shotcrete.