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Construction Management: Concrete Construction

Welcome

- Concrete, the most versatile building material on the planet is found in


virtually every construction project in one form or another. And it's been used for
centuries to build some of the most recognizable structures on earth. I'm Jim
Rogers and I'm excited to be talking to you today about a portion of the
construction industry that really got me my start in construction.When I was 15
years old and I needed a job I had my choice between being a dishwasher at a
restaurant and doing something that I did not understand at a company that did
concrete construction.
Needless to say, I picked the concrete job. I got hooked and never looked
back. Over the years I've helped build, repair, demolish, reinforce, design and
troubleshoot concrete structures all over North America. I've consulted on
projects around the world and served on international code committees. In this
course, I'll be talking to you about concrete as a building material and how we
work with concrete in today's modern construction industry. The demands on
today's construction managers are always increasing.
If you work for a general contractor you need to be able to communicate
effectively with the project's design team to discuss materials and processes. And
you need to have enough knowledge to effectively manage your trade
contractors to schedule activities on the site. If you work for one of those
trade contractors chances are you may install, attach to, or somehow work with
concrete. This course will give you a great foundation to begin to understand
concrete and how it's used to build everything from footings and roads to towers
and dams.
Whether you're new to the industry, just getting started with a construction
management degree or you're a seasoned construction veteran who just needs to
learn more about concretestick with me and let's find out just how much of this
material we use around the world.
The most widely used man-made material

- Alright. I said we use a lot of concrete in the construction industry but you
might be surprised to learn that concrete is actually the most widely used
building material in the world. In fact, it's actually the most widely
used, manmade material on the planet. Think about it, it's use on virtually every
job. In horizontal construction, we use concrete to build roads and curbs and
driveways and sidewalks. We make large pipes out of concrete along with the
underground vaults that they connect to. We use it for erosion control and to line
channels and waterways.
And then in vertical construction. We use it to make concrete structures like
offices, hotels,parking structures. Sometimes concrete's used as a building
structural frame or its main structural component. But even in steel
buildings, where structural steel makes up the building's frame, we're still typically
gonna use concrete to make up each floor. Even a basic wood framed house, with
wood floors, will probably use concrete as the footings that hold the structure
up. With all this concrete being used on all these different types of construction
projects, it's important to understand how the material works.
You need to understand its strengths as well as its limitations. You need to
understand why we add steel reinforcement to concrete and what advantages
there are to doing things like pre-stressing concrete. And in today's modern
concrete industry, you need to have a basic understanding of the chemistry
behind concrete. And how chemicals are being used to alter its properties and
make what's referred to as, high performance concrete, that's changing the way
we build some types of structures. To understand these properties and to begin
to understand some of this chemistry, let's continue on and take a look at a little
concrete history, back in the days when the chemistry was just starting to be
explored.

History and usage

- Ever since civilizations first started to build, we've sought a material that would
bind stones into a solid formed mass. The Babylonians used clay for this
purpose. Later on, the Egyptians advanced to the discovery of lime and gypsum
mortar as a binding agent for building structures like the Great Pyramids. The
Greeks made further improvements, and finally the Romans developed a
cement that produced structures of remarkable durability. Now, when I say
remarkable durability, I'm talking about the fact that some of these first early
concrete structures are still standing today.
Structures like the Pantheon in Rome, which was built almost 2,000 years ago. It's
still standing, and it's still considered to be the world's largest unreinforced
concrete dome. The secret of Roman success in making cement was traced back
to the mixing of lime with a volcanic ash from Mount Vesuvius, and they called
this ash, "pozzolana." The process they used produced a cement capable of
hardening underwater, and we now refer to that as hydraulic cement.
Then, fast-forward a little bit. In the mid-1700s, a British engineer named John
Smeatonconducted experiments that led to the discovery of a cement made from
limestone that also contained a considerable amount of clay, and it performed
better than previously used cements, and it still hardened underwater. Go forward
a little bit more, 1824, Joseph Aspdin, a bricklayer and mason in Leeds,
England took out a patent on hydraulic cement, and he called it Portland cement.
And he called it that because the color resembled the stone that they quarried on
the Isle of Portland off the British coast. Now, his method involved the
careful proportioning of limestone and clay. He pulverized them, and then burned
the mixture into what he called "clinker." That was then ground into the finished
cement product. Now, this process that dates back to the 1800s really most
resembles the method that we use to make cement today, and today we use
these terms, Portland cement and cement, interchangeably.
In addition, virtually all cements we use today are hydraulic cements,
meaning they'll all harden underwater. Alright, now that we've got a little history
behind us, and we've introduced a few industry terms, let's continue and take a
closer look at the difference between cement and concrete.
Concrete versus cement

- Okay, now listen up because this is one of the most important parts of this
course. If you only remember one thing from this course a year from now, I want
you to remember this: concrete and cement are not the same thing, okay. In fact
I'll tell you that many people, including those in the industry, say cement when
they mean concrete. Cement is a dry gray powder and it's just one
ingredient that's in concrete. Concrete in its simplest form is made up of water,
sand, rocks and cement. And it takes all of these things to make the high-strength
concrete that we use as a building material.
So let's focus in on that cement component for a minute to make sure that you
understandwhat it actually is. Again, in its final form, cement is a dry, gray, very
fine powder, and cement's a manufactured product. So since this is a
manufactured product, that does mean that its properties can vary a little bit from
source to source. Now there are standards used around the world to make
sure that the finished product has the same important properties, but there will
be some minor variations in how each manufacturer gets to their final results.
In general though the cement manufacturing process looks like this. It starts with
the mining operation where we extract limestone, which is the main
ingredient. And this limestone is going to be mixed with a few other products:
usually some clay, maybe some gypsum, maybe a few other trace minerals. And
all of this stuff gets blended together in a very large industrial kiln.And that kiln is
heated to over 2,000 degrees. And this heating and blending process forms a new
product called clinker, and it comes out of the kiln looking like a pile of new rocks
that we just made.
And its color can vary from plant to plant depending on those source products
and trace minerals. Now this clinker is then ground into the very fine powder that
we know as cement. At this point, the cement is going to be transported to the
next company in the supply chainwhere it's used as an ingredient in
everything from products like fiber cement siding. It may go a block company
who uses it to make masonry blocks or bags it so it can be used in the field to
make mortar to stick those blocks together.
But a lot of it is gonna end up being shipped to a concrete batch plant, or
sometimes we also call these ready-mix concrete companies. And these are the
companies that are gonna take this cement and combine it with all the other
ingredients that I mentioned to make concrete. Okay, does all that make
sense? Hopefully you have that concept now. Concrete and cement are not the
same thing. You are not walking on a cement sidewalk. It's a concrete
sidewalk. And tha concrete contains cement as just one of its key ingredients.
Now as important as that cement is, let's go ahead and continue on and take a
look at those other ingredients that I mentioned, and we'll introduce you to a few
more terms and conceptsthat you're gonna need to understand.

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Ingredients and terminology

- All right, now that we all know that concrete and cement are not the same
thing, and we know that cement is just one ingredient in our concrete, let's take a
look at the other ingredients, and I'll introduce a few more terms to our
discussion. So in order to make good, strong concrete, I need to blend
together what we call fine aggregates, otherwise known as sand, course
aggregates, otherwise known as rocks, water, and our cement. Now, these
products are combined in very specific proportions according to a recipe that
we'll call the mix design. This mix design is gonna be produced by a concrete
technician, someone that has a high level of training in how to proportion these
ingredients, and they're gonna make sure that they get the results that are
needed.
Now, these proportions and products will change, and that'll depend on the
needs of the project, but the general proportions of each of these ingredients is
about 40 to 45% coarse aggregates, about 25% sand, 16% water, and then about
11% of it is our cement. Now, if you're following along and you've added these
numbers up, you're probably a little shy of 100%, and that's because the rest of
the volume in the concrete is air. Some of that air is entrapped in the mix during
that blending and mixing process, and some of it we're gonna put there
intentionally, but I'll talk about the air a little bit later.
For now, let's go ahead and talk about what does happen when I mix all this stuff
together. So when we first mix this together, the concrete is in what we call its
plastic state. It flows. Those dry ingredients combine with the water, and they give
us a nice, workable product that we can place into forms that we set. And those
forms are gonna shape this plastic material into its final position in its final
form. Now, I can build formwork that allows me to make concrete into things like
columns, a slab, beams, walls, even countertops and roof tiles.
And all of this is possible because when we first blend the ingredients together
that make concrete, it's in this nice, plastic state that we can work with. Now, that
fresh concrete mix is only gonna stay plastic for about 90 minutes. Then that
plastic workable material is gonna start to harden. The point at which this
material first starts to harden, we're gonna call that the initial set. Now, once that
initial set starts, we need to be done moving it around. It needs to be in
place, because at this point, if we continue to disturb it and we move it
around, we're gonna damage it.
And we're gonna end up with a final product that's cracked or has a lower than
intended strength. Now, that's why you'll hear some people refer to concrete as a
perishable product.You've only got so long to work with it. Once that initial set
starts, we then start the finishing process, and this is where we give the surface its
final look. Now, this look could be a smooth troweled finish, it could be a broom
finish, so people don't slip, or maybe even a complex surface made by stamping
patterns into the concrete. Now, this finishing operation is performed by
someone that we're gonna call the concrete finisher, and this is someone that's
trained and experienced in recognizing when that concrete is setting and when
and how to get the finish that's needed without damaging the concrete.
All right, at this point, the concrete's going into its second stage, its hardened
state. This is its final state, and that's gonna become our sidewalks, our columns,
our walls, our floors. And one of the things that's really important about this
transformation from its plastic state to its hardened state is you need to
understand that the concrete is not getting hard because it's drying out. It's
getting hard because it's undergoing a chemical process called hydration. In fact,
letting it dry out is a bad thing because if the water leaves too soon or too
rapidly, then I might not have enough water to continue and complete that
hydration process.
Remember I used some terms earlier when we were talking about the history of
concrete, and I mentioned that most cements are also known as hydraulic
cements, and I said that means that they harden under water. Well, the reason
they harden under water is exactly this, it's not drying out. It's actually using up
the water in the mix, in a chemical process where the water and cement
combine. And they begin to form a new, hardened compound, and this is the
process that we call hydration. What's happening here is that each of the
individual cement particles is combining with water, and they're essentially
growing little, microscopic fingers.
Now, when it's in its plastic state, the cement and water are what's known as
paste. And it's this paste that hardens as the water gets used up in the chemical
reaction, the cement particles grow those fingers, and those fingers begin to
interlock. Now, they're interlocking with each other, they interlock with the fine
and the coarse aggregates, and as long as the water remains in the mix, this
process can continue. Those fingers can continue to grow. So it's really important
that we don't let the water bleed out the top and evaporate, even after the final
finishing operations are done, and this is really critical in something with a large
surface area, like a big concrete floor.
So this is a process that we call curing, this process of keeping the moisture in the
concrete, and it starts immediately after the finishers get the surface finishing
done. Now, there are different ways of curing the concrete, depending on the site
conditions. We can cover the concrete with a sheet of plastic to seal in the
moisture, or we can spray on a chemical that essentially does the same thing, or
in some cases, the finishers may cure the concrete by actually applying a fog or a
light spray of water.
Now, I'm gonna make sure that this curing continues as long as possible, until the
concrete hardens to its desired strength and durability. Ideally, this would be five
to seven days. So once you understand what's happening here, what's happening
when the concrete's getting hard,some of the things I said earlier hopefully begin
to make sense. Remember when that initial set begins, I said we can't touch
it. Those fingers are starting to grow and interlock, so I don't want to disturb the
concrete and break those things up.
As hydration continues and that final set occurs, the concrete is completing that
transition from plastic to a hardened state, and the water's being used up in this
chemical reaction. So again, we want to keep that moisture in the concrete using
the curing process. Now, this is the process by which concrete's been made for
hundreds of years, but as our knowledge about this chemical process has
increased, we have made a few advances beyond what those ancient Romans had
available to them. So now that we've gone through and you hopefully understand
this basic process, let's go ahead and look at some things that we can do when
we apply a little chemistry to the mix.

Hydraulic cements are able to cure underwater.


You’re correct!

Roughly what percentage of a concrete mix is made


of cement?
You’re correct!
11

Pozzolans and industrial by-products

- Earlier when I discussed the history of concrete and cement, I mentioned to you
that the early Romans used volcanic ash as a key ingredient in the making of their
cement, and they called this ash pozzolana. Now, I'm not aware of many people
using volcanic ash these days, but we do make extensive use of what we now call
pozzolans. So there's a group called the American Concrete Institute, they've got
a nice complicated definition based on the chemical properties of
these pozzolanic materials and the way they react with the chemical elements in
the cement,but we're gonna make this a little easier to understand, and we're
gonna say that a pozzolan is a fine powder that acts like cement when it's used in
a mix along with the cement.
So this is sometimes also referred to then as a supplementary cementitious
material. Now, I said I don't know of many people using volcanic ash these days,
but we do use a material that's know as fly ash. Now, instead of ash that's left
over from a volcanic eruption, this is ash that's left over in a power plant after it
burns coal. It's what sits at the bottom of the furnace that would otherwise be a
waste product. Now, instead, since it can have pozzolanic properties, we can use
it to help make concrete. Now remember though, I said that, by definition, this
stuff only acts like cement when it's combined with the cement.
So, when I mix cement and water, it forms our paste; we talked about that
earlier, and it's gonna harden and bind all the aggregates together in the
concrete. If I tried the same thing with just fly ash and water, I'd just get
sludge. But if I use both the cement and the fly ash in the same mix, it undergoes
a chemical process that replicates hydration and we get hardened concrete. So
the technical explanation for this is that when cement goes through the hydration
process, it gives off what's called calcium hydroxide.
The calcium hydroxide then reacts with the fly ash and we form a brand new
compound, and that compound acts like cement. So, I can't replace all the
cement with fly ash; I need both compounds to make this work. But I can replace
some of the cement, which lets me use an industrial by-product from a power
plant that would otherwise be a waste product, instead of manufacturing more
cement. So, it's a good thing. Now, not only that, but it also adds some really
desirable properties to concrete.
So, in its plastic state, the tiny fly ash particles, they're almost spherical in
nature, which makes them work like millions of ball bearings in the mix, and the
mix becomes a little more workable.It makes it easier to use and place, and in
some cases it might let me reduce some of the water content a little bit, while still
maintaining that workability. Now the other thing that happens isas the hydration
process starts, this process gives off heat. So, in chemistry, hydration would be
known as an exothermic reaction; again, gives off heat.
The pozzolanic reaction is a little different, and it gives off less heat. So, the
higher the fly ash content, the lower the heat it gives off. And sometimes this is
really important in structures with a mass amount of concrete, like a dam, where
too much of that heat can actually cause thermal cracking that we don't want. In
the hardened concrete, the pozzolans are gonna continue to react with all the
freed-up calcium hydroxide in the mix, as long as it's continued to be given
off. Now this generally means that concrete made with fly ash is gonna continue
to gain strength for a longer period of time, and the result is that after a few
months, this fly ash concrete will be stronger than the same concrete made with
cement only.
And the other thing that happens is that when we use up that free calcium
hydroxide in the pozzolanic reaction, we also get fewer what we call bleed
channels in the hardened concrete,little microscopic voids. And this results in a
more dense, less permeable concrete that's more durable over time. So, what I
wanna make sure you understand here is that these things like fly ash, these
pozzolans, they're not just a filler in concrete; they actually make it a better
material.And I also wanna make sure that you're following my description of the
role these materials play in the chemical process of the hardening of the concrete.
So, this means that these materials have to meet certain requirements and have
specific chemical properties. For instance, we can't use all types of fly ash. Coal, in
some geographic regions, contains sulfur, and we don't want that in our
concrete. Sometimes the ash particles are just too big, or they contain too much
remaining carbon. These conditions would also prevent this type of ash from
being used. So don't try to do this on your own, this really takes a trained and
experienced concrete material technician to properly select and then proportion
all of these materials when they're creating their mix designs.
And another way to say this is, this is not your father's concrete. We're absolutely
leveraging our knowledge of chemistry these days to make better concrete. Now,
used properly, these pozzolans, or supplementary cementitious materials, can
really help us make better concrete.Now, I've mostly talked about fly ash
here, because it's the most widely used pozzolan,especially when we consider the
volume of it, but there are other pozzolans out there, like ground, granulated
blast-furnace slag, silica fume and even rice hull ash, and these are all industrial
by-products that can be repurposed to make better concrete.
So, all of these products are also sometimes put in a category that we're gonna
call mineral admixtures. And now that we have a basic understanding of what
these mineral admixtures do,let's go on to our next topic, and we're gonna take a
look at chemical admixtures.

Introduction to chemical admixtures

- We just finished talking about pozzolans, and we also called these materials
mineral admixtures. And in the examples I discussed, we really used these mineral
admixtures to replace some of the cement in our concrete mix. Now I wanna take
a look at chemical admixtures, and we're gonna say that chemical admixtures are
things we put in the concrete that are in addition to our cement, our water, and
our aggregates. And we can add these chemicals before, during, or after
mixing, and we use them to alter some of the properties of the concrete.
Now these chemicals can be liquids or they can be powders, and they can be
used to do thingslike alter the concrete in its plastic state, or alter the concrete in
its future hardened state. Now, the primary reason I would wanna add
chemicals to my concrete mix, would be to improve cost or constructibility on a
project. And I can do this by adding chemicals designed to make the concrete
easier to work with. For example, I can speed up the hydration process, or I can
slow it down. I can improve the durability of the concrete, or I can alter the
properties enough to make concrete a little more usable in situations where it
would have been very difficult or impossible to use it in the past.
Now I'll use the Portland Cement Association's general categories of
admixtures to group some of these chemicals together, so that we can talk about
them. These general categories includeair entraining admixtures, water reducing
admixtures, admixtures that retard or accelerate the initial set of our
concrete, plasticizers, and then there's a catchall category of special chemical
admixtures that includes things like corrosion inhibitors, pumping aids, pigments,
colors, kind of everything else. So, let's take a quick look at each of these so you
can get a feel of what we can do to concrete these days through chemistry.
So the first one I mentioned was air entraining admixtures, and I talked about air
a little bit earlier. Now, what these chemicals do, is that they cause the
formation of millions of microscopic bubbles in the concrete, and these
microscopic bubbles are actually good. They increase the hardened concrete's
resistance to freezing and thawing. Now if you've ever heard somebody in the
field ask about the air in the concrete, that's what they're referring to. So
chemicals that can change the time it takes for the initial set to occur in
concrete, these things have been around for awhile, but they've gotten a little
more sophisticated over the last few years.
If I just used the basic ingredients of sand, rocks, water, and cement, and I
proportioned these to make good concrete, once I mix all this together, I get that
plastic refreshed concrete mix,and like I said earlier, it's gonna sit dormant for
about 90 minutes, and that means I have 90 minutes from the time it was
mixed back at the plant, till the time it starts to get hard, or from a technical
standpoint, I have 90 minutes until hydration starts. Now this is where the
old, and in my opinion outdated code requirements come from. You might hear
in the field sometimeswhere an inspector says something like, "Concrete has to
be placed within 90 minutes of mixing." Again, the logic here is sound, we want
that concrete in place in the forms before hydration starts.
We don't want to disturb it after hydration starts, and we've discussed that
already, but these days, an experienced concrete technician can use chemicals to
move that initial set time up or back to almost any timeframe they need. And like
I said, we've been doing this to some extentfor many years, with some simple
accelerators, that concrete placement companies will use in the winter to do
things like speed up the concrete. Now, the reason I do this is because if it's cold
enough outside, we can actually slow down that initial set time, and that just
means the concrete's gonna sit there longer before we can finish it and go
home, so accelerators speed that set time up, so I don't waste labor in the
field on just waiting around.
Now, if you've ever worked in a really hot climate, like where I'm from, you might
have also experienced the fact that the heat can really speed up the hydration
process, and really shorten the time to initial set, so in this case, I'm gonna use a
chemical retardant to slow this back down. Give me some time to place the
concrete before it begins to get hard. Now, as our knowledge of this process has
increased, and we've gained more and more experience with some of these
chemicals, we've been able to do things that we never thought were possible
before. So, give you an example.
I can now transport fresh concrete over long distances. I've seen several projects
being built in very remote locations that would have been very expensive in terms
of concrete production in the past because they're so far from any existing
plant that they would have had to truck in the raw materials and set up their own
equipment on site to produce and mix the concrete as they needed it. And
depending on the quantities and the demand, this can be burdensome, it can be
really expensive, but these days, through the use of these chemical admixtures I
can batch that concrete at an existing plant, and then dump a chemical in, and
put it to sleep for a period of time while I drive that concrete truck several
hours to the job site, and its final destination.
Once it gets there, I can dump another chemical in and wake the concrete up, so I
can start placement and have that initial set occur at the right time. That's pretty
cool stuff. Alright, so let's talk about some more examples of our specialty
admixtures, and these are gonna include chemicals that can be added to the mix
to do things like help prevent corrosion of reinforcing bars that are inside the
concrete, chemicals that have been used to allow the concrete to be pumped
from the ground up to incredible heights, in order to build high-rise towers using
concrete frames instead of structural steel frames.
This has always been sort of a limitation of concrete before we've only been able
to pump it up so high, and now we can increase that because of chemical
admixtures, and then we kind of get to our remaining category of admixture. And
this includes water reducing admixtures and plasticizers. Now, these are specialty
chemicals that we're gonna use to reduce the quantity of water that we use in our
concrete mix, but before I get too far ahead of myself, and we start discussing
these admixtures, let's go ahead and move to the next segment.
I wanna talk about water first, and what water does in concrete, so you can get a
better understanding of why these chemicals are so important, and why we need
them in the first place.
Water: How much is too much

- [Instructor] By now, you have these basic ingredients in concrete down: fine
aggregates, coarse aggregates, cement, and water. And we've looked at the value
of replacing some of those cements with pozzolans. And we've discussed some of
the things you can do with chemical admixtures to alter the properties of the
concrete. But now let's go ahead and take a look at that water. So first things first,
we do need to make sure that we're using the correct water, and this is usually
pretty easy. We generally just need to make sure we're using potable water or
water that's safe to drink. And this is really just to make sure that the
water doesn't contain any biological ingredients that are gonna damage our
concrete.
Now this does mean that if we're gonna do something like draw water from a
source like a lake,then we might need to filter that water before we use it to make
concrete. Or at least get it tested by somebody who's knowledgeable to make
sure that that water doesn't contain anything that's gonna be detrimental to our
concrete. But other than that, what we really focus on when we talk about water
and concrete is how much. So from a chemical standpoint, I really need very little
water in a concrete mix to complete that hydration process that we've been
talking about.
Most of the water that we put in our concrete mix, we really put there to make
the concrete more workable, make it easier to pump or easier to place and move
around. And most of that water is not gonna get used up in that hydration
process. That's where the problem lies. The water that gets used up during
hydration, that is the water that combines with those cement particles and grows
those fingers that we talked about that bind all the aggregates together, that's
good water. So we need it for hydration.
And it's gonna be used up during that chemical process. It essentially goes away,
so I'm not worried about it. It's the rest of that water, the water that we put
there to make the concrete more workable, that's really what we're gonna call
free water. And the problem with free water is that it can make concrete weaker
and less durable, and that can happen in a couple of different ways. One, some of
that water is gonna bleed out the top of the fresh concrete as it hardens. Too
much bleed water is gonna increase our finishing time, cost me more money.
And too much bleed water can also cause the surface to be less durable. But not
all that free water is gonna bleed out the top. Some is gonna stay absorbed in the
concrete itself and make that concrete less dense, and that makes the hardened
product weaker. So that's why concrete technicians and people that make the mix
designs really concentrate on what we're gonna callthe water-cement ratio. Now
this is simply the ratio of the weight of the water to the weight of the
cement. Now ideally on paper, this ratio would work out to .4.
So in other words, when I divide the weight of the water by the weight of the
cement I want an answer of .4. And that's gonna give me enough water for a
complete hydration process, but not so much that I'm gonna have a bunch of free
water in the mix that'll never be used up during that chemical hydration
process. Now the problem here is that a mix that contains only enough water to
have a water-cement ratio of .4 is really stiff. It's hard to move around and I
guarantee you the people placing the concrete in the field are gonna complain
that the mix is not plastic enough or flowable enough.
It's too hard to work with. So many mix designs are gonna contain more water
than that to help with that workability issue in the field. The key here is that as the
water-cement ratio increasesthe final concrete strength always decreases. To put
that in simpler terms, the more water I addto make the concrete easier to work
with, the weaker the concrete becomes period. And that's why you'll hear
engineers, and inspectors out in the field tell the people placing the concreteout
there that they can't add more water to the mix once it gets on site.
So that brings us to water reducing admixtures and plasticizers to help us solve
this problem.Now these are chemicals, and again I've used both liquids and
powders. And they make the concrete flow better without adding water. So you
can take and mix a batch of concrete at a really low water-cement ratio and see
that it's stiff. You can then add a little bit of water reducing admixture and see
that it becomes more flowable. I can add a plasticizer, which is really just a higher
range water reducing admixture, and it becomes even more fluid.
Now, depending on the application and the geographical location, it's really
common these days for concrete used on virtually all construction projects to
contain at least some quantity of a water reducing admixture to again reduce the
amount of water in that mix to a level where we're not impacting strength. Now
as the demands for flowability increase, it's becoming more common to see that
water reducing admixture stepped up to that higher range plasticizer type of
admixture.
Now in this category of water reducing admixtures and plasticizers, we're also
now seeing a new category of admixture emerge that makes the concrete even
more fluid than we've ever seen before while requiring very little water. So stay
with me and we're gonna take a look atwhat we're gonna call self-consolidating
concrete.

Self-consolidating concrete

- Well, we just finished talking about the problems with adding too much water
to concrete.And if you've ever been part of a field crew trying to place concrete,
you know, like I said, the main reason people do this is they wanna wet the
concrete up and make it easier to place. It just flows better because it's not so
stiff. But again, remember, the higher the water to cement ratio in that concrete,
the lower the strength. And also remember that we've talked about the hardening
of the concrete being that chemical process we called hydration, and we
discussed a few of the chemical admixtures that we can use these days to change
the properties of the concrete, like the water-cement ratio.
Now, one of the chemicals that we discussed was the water reducing admixture
that changesthe properties of the plastic concrete to make it more flowable
without adding more water.What I want to introduce now is what we're
calling self-consolidating concrete. Now this is a revolutionary new product. It
uses one or more chemical admixtures to make a plastic concrete that's
completely flowable. It requires almost no effort to place. This is incredible
stuff because it flows like a very fluid liquid right out of the mixer shoot, instead
of being stiff and piling up like it would without the chemicals in it.
In fact, it's so fluid that one of the tests that we use in the field for quality
control won't work on self-consolidating concrete. We used to, on regular
concrete, we'd measure what we call the slump of the concrete. And this is a field
test that measures the stiffness of the concrete and compares it against what we
expected it to be according to the mix design. And in that test, we would fill a 12
inch tall cone, called the slump cone, with fresh plastic concrete, and then we'd
lift that cone, and measure how much the pile fell, or slumped.
Now without any chemicals added to the mix, a concrete with a typical water-
cement ratio that we'd use in the field would slump probably about four
inches. Or in other words, when we lift that cone, that 12 inch tall pile of concrete
would slump down to an eight inch tall pile of concrete. Now, with self-
consolidating concrete, that same test wouldn't give you any usable
information because the concrete is so flowable. So they revised the test a
little. We're gonna use that same cone, but we're gonna turn it over.
We're gonna invert it and fill that with concrete. Now when the cone's lifted, and
the concrete just flows out the bottom, they actually measure the spread, or the
size of the pile, instead of the height of the pile. The height, at that point, is
nothing more than the biggest sized rock being used in the mix. That's how
flowable it is. Now when they do this test, they're also looking for a nice round
pile, or patty, as the concrete flows away from the cone. And they're looking to
see that all the rocks stay evenly distributed throughout that pile. And that's really
one of the incredible properties of this mixture that makes it work.
So even though the concrete flows like water, the aggregates stay properly
distributed all throughout that mix. I can tell you, if this same test was done with
just a really watered down mix, you'd just have a big pile of rocks in the
middle, with watery paste flowing away from that pile of rocks. And this would
translate to what would end up being a very weak concrete mix.Now, in use, this
product requires very little handling. Again, because it just flows into the
formsand levels itself off.
It's that flowable. Now, not only does it require very little effort to rake into place,
it requires almost no effort to vibrate it, to get it consolidated. What I mean by
this is that with regular concrete, I usually have to vibrate it to get it
consolidated around the reinforcing and into the corners. And I had to be careful
not to over-vibrate, which could also separate the aggregates from the paste. So,
when I cast something like a concrete wall or column, the finish, or the
smoothness once the concrete hardens and the forms are removed, really
depended heavily on proper vibrating.
Now with self-consolidating concrete, the issue of consolidation by
vibration virtually goes away. If I use this correctly, we'd really try to pump
something like a wall from the bottom up,and let that plastic concrete flow and
fill up the forms, covering all the reinforcing as it goes. Or in the case of
something like a long beam, we'd place the concrete over from one end, almost
pushing it through the forms as it flows. Now with regular concrete, it would be
so stiff that this would never work.
We'd just end up with a big pile of concrete. But with this stuff, it's so
flowable that it just consolidates itself without vibration when it moves. And when
the forms are taken off, we just end up with a better finish than we would with
regular concrete. All right, now there's a cost to you doing this. You do pay extra
for these chemicals that make it so flowable and that hold these aggregates in
place. And you do have to know how to work with this material since it acts so
differently when it's being placed than traditional concrete.
But sometimes these costs and considerations can be offset by other factors. So,
in a precast plant, for example, it saves all kinds of labor. And it saves all the
energy that we would otherwise use to run those vibrating casting beds that we
use at a precast yard. Now, sometimes this alone is enough to offset the cost of
those chemicals. On some projects, there can be an incredible amount of
congestion inside the forms with all the reinforcing steel that might be
needed. And in these cases, self-consolidating concrete might represent a better
way to actually get the concrete placed and consolidated properly.
Now, this stuff's been around for a little while. But it's really only more
recently that more companies have had some real success in getting all the
proportioning just right, so the product really works in a cost-effective
manner. So, now that you've seen some really cool usesof chemicals and
admixtures and how they can change the properties of both the plastic
concrete and the final hardened concrete, let's go ahead and move on. We're
gonna take a lookat some of the strengths and weaknesses of this building
material itself.
Pozzolans chemically react with calcium hydroxide to
form compounds which have cementitious properties.
You’re correct!

Why should you use potable water when mixing


concrete?
You’re correct!
to ensure that there are no biological contaminates which would
damage the concrete

Question #3 of 3

What is a primary benefit of Self-Consolidating


Concrete?
You’re correct!
It flows extremely well and the aggregates distribute evenly.
resume auto scrolling

Compression versus tension

- At this point, we've covered what's in concrete, how it's made, how it gets hard
and how we can use chemicals to change and improve its properties. Now let's
take that information and use it to begin to understand how and why we use this
incredible material so much during construction. To start that conversation, you
need to understand exactly what I really mean when I say concrete is strong and
that it's a durable building material. So let's talk about concrete's strengths and
about concrete weaknesses. You'll often hear concrete referred to in terms of its
strength.
You may hear things like, 'This is 3000 psi concrete. Or 5000, or 7000 psi
concrete.' When people throw around these numbers, they're actually referring to
its 28 day compressive strength, or if you want to be a little bit more precise, this
is the expected compressive strengthof the hardened concrete in pounds per
square inch when it's 28 days old. Compressive strength is where concrete really
has its advantages. Even concrete on the low end of thestrength spectrum, like
2500 or 3000 psi concrete.
That's incredible compressive strength. Those numbers refer to the fact that it's
going to take a force equivalent to 3000 pounds per square inch to crush that
concrete. An example I always use to put that into perspective, is that if I were to
cut out a six inch diameter core of concrete from a concrete floor in a house, that
would be strong enough to support that whole house without being crushed. The
key here is understanding compressive strength and what that really means to
the concrete structure itself.
Compressive forces are forces that would tend to crush something, or squeeze it
together. And again, this is where concrete excels. One of the limitations of
concrete though, is its tensile strength. Tensile forces are the forces that
would pull something apart, and concrete has arelatively low tensile
strength when you compare it to its compressive strength. To give you an idea,
most estimates will state that the tensile strength of concrete is only about ten
percent, or even less, of its compressive strength. Get a little more precise, some
design manuals will refer to a calculation of 6.7 times the square root of the
compressive strength.
Now, a lot of this depends on some specifics in the mix design, like water-cement
ratio and aggregate size. But still, this means that our 3000 psi concrete only has
a tensile strength of probably at most 366 psi. And even our high strength 7000
psi concrete probably only has a tensile strength of about 560 psi. Another way to
look at this is by picturing a concrete slab sitting on the ground.
If I walked up to that slab and I started hitting it in the middle with a sledge
hammer, I'm gonna have a hard time crushing it. But if I take that same slab and
I suspend it or I prop it up on one side, I can now probably hit it in the
middle and get it to bend and break. So when we're talking about concrete being
used to build a wall, or long beam or bridge or tall column, this tensile strength is
really important because it refers to that bending strength.
When wind blows against a concrete wall, it's gonna try to bend that wall. Putting
the face of the wall being hit by the wind into tension. When gravity pulls down
on a concrete beam that's supported on columns on either end, the bottom of
that beam where the bending forces occur is being put into tension. So at that
point, I don't really care that my compressive strength is 7000 psi. I care that the
tensile strength is probably only 560 psi. Now again, I can alter my mix designs to
increase tensile strength but even though this is a really important number, we
still rarely refer to concrete using that tensile strength designation.
We just use its compressive strength. So the reason I'm explaining this, is so that
you understand that sometimes the reason a designer wants to use higher
strength concrete or go from 3000 psi concrete in a beam up to 7000 psi
concrete may really have very little to do with actually needing more compressive
strength. They're really just trying to get more tensile strength. We can generally
say that concrete is strong in compression, but it's weak in tension.
Let's take a look at what we can do about that.

Concrete reinforcing

- So far we've talked about the fact that since concrete starts out in that plastic
state, and then transforms to a hardened state, it makes it great building
material. And in the last video, though, we talked about one of its
limitations being that even though it's strong in Compression, it's relatively weak
in Tension. Even just increasing the concrete's overall strength,or its compressive
strength, like we discussed, results in very small jumps in that tensile
strength. Now, in that segment, I did mention that there are things that we can
do with the mix designs, to create concrete with higher tensile strength.
Again, we talked about using stronger aggregates, or larger aggregates, or
adding more cement, taking out more water, and all of these things can be
manipulated to change the properties of the concrete. But they also all have
limitations. Now, don't get me wrong, as we invent more and more types of
chemical add mixtures, and we push the limits of leveraging different pozzolanic
materials, the industry is seeing more use of what we call high-performance
concrete, and there's a great deal of research going on these days in the field of
high performance concrete.
Trying to make 10,000 or 20,000 psi concrete with incredible tensile
strengths. Now, in the meantime, while all this research and development's going
on, we do have a solution to the problem that's proven, and dates back to France
in the mid 1800s. Now, everything we've talked about so far, we've just looked at
concrete used by itself, but all the way back in 1853, a French Industrialist built
what's considered to be the first iron reinforced, concrete building. It was a four-
story house in the suburbs of Paris.
Now, in the fifty years the followed that, the idea of reinforced concrete was
studied and published as a way to combine the high-tensile strength of steel
bars with that workability and high-compressive strength of concrete. Now, this
idea of reinforced concrete is used everywhere today, by embedding steel
reinforcing bars, and you might know these as Rebar,into the plastic
concrete. Now, this works really well, because we can just put the rebar where it's
needed, when we're building the form work, and then we can place the plastic
concrete in the forms and around the reinforcing, so that it all becomes
embedded in that hardened concrete.
Now, this actually works really well for a number of reasons. One, it's pretty easy
to do. Two, concrete happens to bond really well to the steel, and that's
important. Three, concrete is also highly alkaline, and what that means is when
you surround the steel with it, it actually passivates that steel, it creates an
environment that helps inhibit corrosion of the steel, so that's important. And,
then, four, the coefficients of thermal expansion of concrete and steel happen to
be very similar.
So, these two products stay bonded together, even when the heat and the cold
effects the structure. Knowing these things, all we need to do to make this work is
put enough steel in, in the right locations. Now, putting enough steel in is a
matter for the design professional. They need to calculate the bending
moments that are gonna occur when wind hits a concrete wall,or gravity pulls
down on a concrete beam, and then put in enough steel in the design to get the
strength that they need.
Now, to get more strength, they can use larger diameter rebar, or they can just
place more pieces closer together. But, there are some limitations here,
though, and one of those is that the steel has to fit inside the concrete,
obviously. And, another one is that the concrete has to be able to flow through
and around the steel in order to cover and bond to it. Now, this is one of the
reasons that designers may limit the size of the largest aggregate in the concrete
mix.The largest aggregate, or the biggest rock, can't be bigger than the smallest
rebar spacing or it won't get through that grid of rebar.
Now, as far as where to exactly place the rebar, this is also a matter for the
structural designer.But, we can get a good idea of where we expect to see the
reinforcing, or where we need the reinforcing by understanding where the tensile
forces are going to effect that concrete member. Now, this is easy to visualize if
we look at something like a cross-section of a supported, concrete slab. Again,
gravity is going to pull down this slab in the middle and that effect is just going
to increase as we put things on top of the slab.
Now, since it's supported at both ends, it's going to end up trying to bend in the
middle, and this is where I need my reinforcing steel. I want it in the middle, and I
want it located down in the bottom portion of the slab, where those tensile forces
are trying to pull it apart due to the bending. Now, I've got the opposite
condition over in the supports at the ends, as the slab bends and tries to pull
itself apart in the middle, the tensile stresses at the ends occur near the top of the
slab where it's supported. So, in these locations, I would expect the rebar to be
located in the top portion of the slab.
Now, you can visualize a concrete wall in much the same way. If it's a retaining
wall, the forces trying to bend it are always coming from one side, with the tensile
stresses occurring in the face that's bending. So, I want my reinforcing over in this
face. Now, on the other hand, if this were a freestanding wall, my loading could
be coming in the form of wind from either direction. So, in this case, I might have
two layers of reinforcing, one in each face. Alright, let's take a look at one last
example here before we move on, and I want to visualize a concrete footing.
Now, when I build a wall or a column from the ground up, I'm generally gonna
rest that concrete wall, or column, on a footing. Now, the footing is there to take
all that weight and transfer it into the ground. That footing is gonna be sized by
the designer, to spread that weight out. But, as the footing gets larger, the
potential for that wall or column to push on it so much that it bends, goes up. So
again, visualize where the bending would occur. We want the rebar in that
bottom face, where the concrete's being torn apart.
That's where I'm going to locate my steel reinforcing. Now, all this discussion also
shows us one of the reasons that concrete cracks, when forces try to bend the
concrete, it gets pulled apart. If those forces exceed the tensile strength of the
concrete, it cracks. So, we put rebar at these locations as reinforcing to limit those
cracks, and the effect that they have on the strength of the structure. But, there is
also another reason the concrete cracks, and that's a little harder to manage, so
stick with me and let's take a look at that issue.

What causes cracking

- We just reviewed one major reason that concrete cracks, and that had to do
with an outside force being applied to it and trying to bend it. But there's another
reason that concrete cracks.Remember, that if a force tries to pull the concrete
apart, the concrete's going to crack when the stresses caused by that force
exceed the concrete's tensile strength. Now, besides those external forces, there's
also more of an internal force in the concrete, working to pull it apart.And that is
that concrete shrinks. Over time, and especially during that first seven days where
the hydration process is really running, and then in the next 28 days where it's still
running, but it's winding down a little bit.
Some of that water is being used up in the process, and some of that water is
leaving the concrete. And the concrete undergoes a measurable volume
change. It shrinks and there's really very little we can do about it. It's just part of
the process. Hydration starts, water gets used up, the process puts off heat, and
the concrete shrinks. That's just what it does. Now, in addition to this initial
shrinkage, which really can be as much as a half an inch for a hundred foot long
slab, the volume of a concrete structure can also change with weather.
So cold shrinks it and heat expands it. These temperature changes might not have
much of an effect on an enclosed structure like a building, where the temperature
stays fairly constantbecause it's all enclosed, but it might have a really big effect
on something like an outside slab,or a parking structure that's exposed to the
weather, and undergoes all those volume changesassociated with high and low
temperatures. Now, let me explain how this works. If concrete were cast up in
space where it was unrestrained, it would still shrink, but it wouldn't crack.
Now think about it. If there was nothing to restrain it, it would just shrink towards
the middle,and the volume change wouldn't cause cracking. But down here on
Earth, there's always something restraining that volume change. So, for example,
if I support a beam or a slab on some columns or walls, it's attached to those
supports, and those supports are effectively trying to hold it there. As that beam
or slab shrinks, it's being held at the end, and those shrinkage forces increase and
the concrete just eventually tears itself apart.
This is what's known as a shrinkage crack. Now, if we go back down onto a slab-
on-grade, a slab like the floor of a building or a tennis court, that restraint can
come from friction. And so, again, if the slab would just shrink from the outside to
the middle, we'd end up with a slightly shorter slab, but without friction it
wouldn't crack. Because friction is restraining that slab's ability to shorten,
though, these internal forces build up again, and the slab pulls itself apart, and
cracks to allow those little smaller pieces to shorten.
The term restraint-to-shortening cracks is also used here to describe these
shrinkage cracks in concrete. Now, in structural concrete that already
contains enough rebar in it to reinforce against the bending that we expect to
occur, there's often enough rebar already in place to reinforce against this type of
cracking. But let's take a look at some other strategies that can be used, especially
in something like a slab-on-ground that might not need any rebar in it to
reinforce against those bending movements.

Strategies to manage cracking

- Like I said, shrinkage of concrete is a given. It's an inherent part of the chemical
reaction. Now, since this is a given and since it's very predictable, we've come up
with some strategies to manage this cracking. And these strategies run the
gamut from simple things like actually just letting it crack or forcing it to crack at
a location that we pick, all the way to more advance strategies like using special
chemical admixtures or pre-stressing the concrete. Now the use of chemical
admixtures to control shrinkage cracking has had some documented success, but
it does require some pretty careful planning, some special techniques and the use
of a type of admixture that's referred to as a shrinkage compensating admixture.
Or we can use shrinkage compensating cement that has properties similar to that
chemical admixture. Now, one issue here is that this costs some money. And it
might not be the most cost effective method of managing the cracking in many
cases. The other issue is that these products don't really stop shrinkage. So as
their name sort of implies, they actually attempt to compensate for it. The way
these things work is by actually causing the concrete to expandshortly after the
initial set to compensate for the shrinkage that we know is gonna happen after
that.
Now in order to really make this work, the concrete's gotta be somewhat
contained as it expands and squeezes itself together so that its volume remains
unchanged when it shrinks later. So again, this exists, but its use has really been
restricted to mostly some real large warehouse floors or maybe a few structures
like parking garages on a limited basis and again, a lot of this comes down to
knowledge and economics. Another way to manage this type of cracking in these
floors is to just let it happen but force it to crack where we want it to crack.
The way we do this is by tooling, or cutting joints in the concrete at
predetermined locations.Now to be effective, these joints need to be cut
early, before much of the shrinkage starts. And these joints are called control
joints. Now by cutting or tooling these joints deep enough, we actually create a
weakened plane at that location with the idea that as the concrete shrinks, it'll
then crack at these weakened locations. You wanna put enough of these in and
space them so that the only shrinkage cracking occurs at these joints.
This technique is used in un-reinforced concrete and it's very common in slab-on-
ground construction. Sidewalks, a great example where you see joints tooled
every five feet. As the concrete shrinks, it cracks inside these joints and not
between them. So they're not as noticeable and don't appear to be a defect even
though the cracks are still there. Another common method of dealing with
shrinkage is by adding rebar just like we do to reinforce against bending. But in
this view, bending and shrinkage are really still the same.
They both generate tensile stresses in the concrete. What we have to do to
prevent the cracking in this case is add rebar when we calculate that the tensile
stresses due to the concrete shrinkage are gonna exceed the concrete's tensile
strength. Like I said earlier, sometimes the reinforcing needed to make the
structure strong enough is also enough to reinforce against shrinkage
cracking. Sometimes in these structures though, we need to add some rebar in
locations where it wouldn't be needed to reinforce against bending.
This is oftentimes called temperature and shrinkage reinforcing. It's there to
reinforce against just the cracking caused by volume changes and that
includes that initial shrinkage as well as any shrinkage that might occur later on as
the concrete volume changes slightly due to temperature fluctuations. In these
cases, the concrete's not going to bend, it's just going to pull straight apart and
instead of locating my rebar in the upper or lower portions of the concrete, I
would now expect it to be located in the middle portion of the concrete.
At this point though, I probably better mention one of the limitations of rebar in
these conditions. So far I've been saying that we're trying to reinforce against
cracking, but really we're actually reinforcing to control crack widths. Even using
rebar the concrete's gonna crackbecause it takes so little movement to pull it
apart and generate that little hairline crack. The strategy here is to use enough
rebar to limit those crack widths so they don't open up. I want them to stay
closed or remain that little narrow hairline crack.
When I keep the crack closed or at least limit the amount that it opens, not only
do I have rebar spanning across that crack and strengthening the concrete, I also
maintain what we call the aggregate interlock. So picture a jagged crack going
through the depth of a slab. Because I have all these rocks or large aggregate
pieces distributed through the mix, that crack doesn't run straight. It's jagged and
it goes around those rocks. If I keep the crack width really tight,those aggregates
will stay somewhat locked together to prevent those two halves from moving up
and down relative to each other.
The shrinkage is going to occur. And either of these techniques, placing control
joints or adding temperature and reinforcing steel, just involve letting it crack
while it shrinks but managing locations and crack widths. Let's continue. We're
gonna take a look at a different form of concrete reinforcing that handles
cracking in a little bit different manner.

The tensile strength of concrete is roughly what


percent of its compressive strength?
You’re correct!
10

When considering cracking, what is the primary


function of steel-reinforcement?

to manage the location and width of cracks

Active versus passive reinforcing

- I've talked so far about unreinforced concrete and then reinforced


concrete. Now I want to go ahead and add the concept of pre-stressed concrete
to our discussion. To start understanding this concept, you need to understand
the difference between what I'm gonna call active reinforcing and passive
reinforcing. So far I've only covered what we call passive reinforcing. We call it
passive reinforcing because essentially it sits inside the concrete and it has no
effect on the concrete structure until the concrete's loaded to the point where it
can't take it anymore,and then the rebar takes over.
So in the case of bending, that rebar feels nothing until the tensile stresses in the
concreteexceed its tensile strength, and it starts to pull apart and crack. We locate
the rebar as close as possible to the base of the concrete where the tensile
stresses are gonna develop so that crack travels only a very short distance before
the rebar takes over. Same thing goes with temperature and shrinkage
reinforcing. The rebar does nothing until the concrete shrinks enough to start
pulling it apart, then the rebar takes over and holds those cracks closed. This is an
important concept to acknowledge, because it helps us to understand that
concrete is going to crack.
If it cracks like we expect it, and that cracking is managed to the degree that we
intended, then the design and construction worked. If the cracks occur in
unanticipated locations, then maybe something went wrong. Maybe the designer
specified control joint spacing that was too far apart, and you end up with cracks
between those control joints. Or maybe the reinforcing wasn't placed
securely and it floated up to the top of the slab when it was needed in the
bottom portion. Now these would be undesirable conditions and they might
warrant some corrective action.
But again, just because we see cracking, especially hairline cracks, it's not always a
sign of a deficiency. Remember it might actually be doing what it's designed to
do Concrete shrinks and that's the way passive reinforcing works. Let's talk about
a different concept though and look at active reinforcing. Active reinforcing of
concrete is achieved by pre-stressing the concrete by using pre-stressed
reinforcing steel. As the name implies, this is a technique that involvesputting
some internal stresses in the concrete before the concrete's loaded or before it
moves and shrinks or bends.
The idea here is to get some beneficial stresses into the concrete, and since we've
already established that concrete's really strong in compression, that's what we
want to do to the concrete, we want to put it into compression. We already talked
about compression being forces that squeeze concrete together, so if we
combine all these things, we pre-stress concrete by squeezing it together before
it has the chance to move and crack. Think about the benefits here. If I can
squeeze my concrete slab together with enough force before it shrinks too
muchand I keep squeezing it while it shrinks, we let it shrink, but we prevent it
from cracking.
And since this is active reinforcing, we leave this force squeezing the concrete
together forever.This actively puts the concrete into compression, which increases
the bending strength of that's concrete slab or beam itself. Now if that concrete
shrinks or bends, it has to build up tensile stresses that are greater than the sum
of the tensile strength of the concrete plus that additional force we put there by
squeezing it together. Let's think about picking up a stack of books.
If I have a bunch of books, and I pick them up by squeezing the stack
together and I lift it, the more I squeeze, the less likely that stack is to come
apart. Or look at it another way, if I squeeze harder, I can lift more books. This sort
of illustrates the concept of squeezing the concrete together. As you might
imagine, pre-stressing is a little more complex than just installing rebar,so let's
continue and look at how we actually do this.
Pre-tensioning versus post-tensioning

- Let's review a term or two from the last video and then add a couple more
terms. Active reinforcing means we're applying a constant force to the concrete
that helps make it stronger.This force is always in the concrete, and we do this by
prestressing the concrete. This term, prestressing, refers to the fact that we're
introducing a stress before the concrete is loaded by those external forces, before
it has a chance to move or bend for example. There are two ways that I can
prestress concrete. I can post-tension it, or I can pre-tension it.
Post-tensioning and pre-tensioning are both methods of prestressing
concrete. These terms just refer to when we tension the prestressing steel that will
squeeze the concrete. In post-tensioning, I'm gonna tension the steel after the
concrete's placed and gained some strength,whereas in pre-tensioning, I'm
gonna actually tension the steel before the concrete's placed. I'm gonna hold it
that way, and then place the concrete around the steel. Pre-tensioned concrete is
gonna be a form of pre-cast concrete.
I'm gonna make this concrete element at a pre-cast plant and then haul it out to
the job.Because I need special casting beds to build these kinds of forms, and I
need big steel bulkheads to tension my prestressing steel against and hold that
tension in the steel while the concrete's being placed. In this procedure, I build
those forms on a casting bed at the plant. I run the high strength prestressing
steel cables, or tendons, through those forms and secure them in those steel
bulkheads at one end.
And at the other end, I use a hydraulic jack to stretch or tension that prestressing
steel to a predetermined force. Then I'm gonna anchor that force in the
bulkhead, and I hold it there while I place the concrete in the forms. The
concrete's gonna harden, and it'll bond to the prestressing steel. And then I can
cut the steel lose from those bulkheads, which dumps all that force into the
concrete, squeezing it together. So again, pre-tensioning needs to be done at a
pre-cast plant, where I have the casting beds configured to hold and tension that
prestressing steel.
If I want to get prestressed concrete out on the project site, and use more
conventional form work, for instance it would be the same as it would be if I was
just installing rebar, I need to use post-tensioning. In this technique, the
prestressing steel is gonna be housed in a duct or a sheathing that I install just
like the rebar. And I'm gonna thread the prestressing steel through an anchor at
each end that will be embedded in the concrete. Once I have all that in place, I
can then place the concrete and let it harden.
When the concrete reaches a sufficient strength, I lock it into the anchor at one
end, and I use a hydraulic jack at the other end to tension it, or stretch it, to a
predetermined force. Then I use a set of wedges to lock it into that anchor. I now
have the prestressing steel tensioned. The concrete's being squeezed together by
the anchors, and I'm getting all the benefits of prestressed concrete out in the
field without having to make these concrete pieces at a pre-cast plant. Either way,
I have a tremendous amount of force actively squeezing the concrete together, to
keep cracks from forming and to increase the bending capacity of that concrete
member that's being prestressed.
This alone can provide tremendous advantages over passive reinforcing. But let's
look at one more advantage we can get out of active reinforcing. I've used the
term prestressing steel cables, or prestressing tendons. Now they do make
prestressing bars for certain applications,but most of the time, in a beam or a
slab, we use special high strength steel cables. Now, since cables are
flexible, we're not limited to installing them in just a flat profile, we can bend and
drape them so that the profile of the cables follows a path, where the high and
low points cross over those same areas that we looked at earlier, where the most
tensile stresses are going to occur in the concrete.
That is, with the high point over the supports, and a low point at the mid-
spans. Placing prestressing steel in this draped profile gets me several
things. One, I'm placing the steel where it's going to do the most good. When I
stress the cable by pulling on one end, I'm squeezing the concrete together to
increase its bending strength. But also, think about what happenswhen I pull on
this cable that now has a draped profile. It wants to straighten out.
But since it's contained in the concrete, those upward and the downward forces
generated as it tries to straighten out, those forces are transferred into the
concrete just like the squeezing force. This actually lifts up on the concrete out in
the middle where gravity's trying to pull it down. And it pushes down over the
supports where the supports can take all that force and transmit it down and back
into the structure's foundation that's bearing on the ground. This is a concept
that designers call load balancing.
We're actually using the prestressing steel to pick up or lift the concrete in the
middle, and dump all that weight into the supports. Done correctly, this allows us
to get concrete to span incredible distances, and have fewer supports or columns
in the structure. Between squeezing the concrete together to help prevent cracks
from occurring while the concrete shrinks,increasing the bending strength of the
concrete element, and generating uplift to help span longer
distances, prestressing brings a lot of advantages, and makes it possible to do
even more with concrete.
Let's take a look at some examples.

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Pre-tensioning versus post-tensioning

- Let's review a term or two from the last video and then add a couple more
terms. Active reinforcing means we're applying a constant force to the concrete
that helps make it stronger.This force is always in the concrete, and we do this by
prestressing the concrete. This term, prestressing, refers to the fact that we're
introducing a stress before the concrete is loaded by those external forces, before
it has a chance to move or bend for example. There are two ways that I can
prestress concrete. I can post-tension it, or I can pre-tension it.
Post-tensioning and pre-tensioning are both methods of prestressing
concrete. These terms just refer to when we tension the prestressing steel that will
squeeze the concrete. In post-tensioning, I'm gonna tension the steel after the
concrete's placed and gained some strength,whereas in pre-tensioning, I'm
gonna actually tension the steel before the concrete's placed. I'm gonna hold it
that way, and then place the concrete around the steel. Pre-tensioned concrete is
gonna be a form of pre-cast concrete.
I'm gonna make this concrete element at a pre-cast plant and then haul it out to
the job.Because I need special casting beds to build these kinds of forms, and I
need big steel bulkheads to tension my prestressing steel against and hold that
tension in the steel while the concrete's being placed. In this procedure, I build
those forms on a casting bed at the plant. I run the high strength prestressing
steel cables, or tendons, through those forms and secure them in those steel
bulkheads at one end.
And at the other end, I use a hydraulic jack to stretch or tension that prestressing
steel to a predetermined force. Then I'm gonna anchor that force in the
bulkhead, and I hold it there while I place the concrete in the forms. The
concrete's gonna harden, and it'll bond to the prestressing steel. And then I can
cut the steel lose from those bulkheads, which dumps all that force into the
concrete, squeezing it together. So again, pre-tensioning needs to be done at a
pre-cast plant, where I have the casting beds configured to hold and tension that
prestressing steel.
If I want to get prestressed concrete out on the project site, and use more
conventional form work, for instance it would be the same as it would be if I was
just installing rebar, I need to use post-tensioning. In this technique, the
prestressing steel is gonna be housed in a duct or a sheathing that I install just
like the rebar. And I'm gonna thread the prestressing steel through an anchor at
each end that will be embedded in the concrete. Once I have all that in place, I
can then place the concrete and let it harden.
When the concrete reaches a sufficient strength, I lock it into the anchor at one
end, and I use a hydraulic jack at the other end to tension it, or stretch it, to a
predetermined force. Then I use a set of wedges to lock it into that anchor. I now
have the prestressing steel tensioned. The concrete's being squeezed together by
the anchors, and I'm getting all the benefits of prestressed concrete out in the
field without having to make these concrete pieces at a pre-cast plant. Either way,
I have a tremendous amount of force actively squeezing the concrete together, to
keep cracks from forming and to increase the bending capacity of that concrete
member that's being prestressed.
This alone can provide tremendous advantages over passive reinforcing. But let's
look at one more advantage we can get out of active reinforcing. I've used the
term prestressing steel cables, or prestressing tendons. Now they do make
prestressing bars for certain applications,but most of the time, in a beam or a
slab, we use special high strength steel cables. Now, since cables are
flexible, we're not limited to installing them in just a flat profile, we can bend and
drape them so that the profile of the cables follows a path, where the high and
low points cross over those same areas that we looked at earlier, where the most
tensile stresses are going to occur in the concrete.
That is, with the high point over the supports, and a low point at the mid-
spans. Placing prestressing steel in this draped profile gets me several
things. One, I'm placing the steel where it's going to do the most good. When I
stress the cable by pulling on one end, I'm squeezing the concrete together to
increase its bending strength. But also, think about what happenswhen I pull on
this cable that now has a draped profile. It wants to straighten out.
But since it's contained in the concrete, those upward and the downward forces
generated as it tries to straighten out, those forces are transferred into the
concrete just like the squeezing force. This actually lifts up on the concrete out in
the middle where gravity's trying to pull it down. And it pushes down over the
supports where the supports can take all that force and transmit it down and back
into the structure's foundation that's bearing on the ground. This is a concept
that designers call load balancing.
We're actually using the prestressing steel to pick up or lift the concrete in the
middle, and dump all that weight into the supports. Done correctly, this allows us
to get concrete to span incredible distances, and have fewer supports or columns
in the structure. Between squeezing the concrete together to help prevent cracks
from occurring while the concrete shrinks,increasing the bending strength of the
concrete element, and generating uplift to help span longer
distances, prestressing brings a lot of advantages, and makes it possible to do
even more with concrete.
Let's take a look at some examples.
Benefits and examples

- In the previous segments, I explained the basic principles and theory behind
pre-stressed concrete. Now let's take a look at the types of structures that benefit
from this type of active reinforcing. We'll start on the ground, with house
foundations. In the United States, for several decades, we've used post-tensioned,
pre-stressing steel installed in a flat profile, in the middleof the concrete slab to
squeeze that slab together and increase it's bending strength like I discussed
earlier. We do this here, because in some regions where the soil that the slab sits
on contains a lot of clay, the ground swells and shrinks as it gets wet and then
dries.
This swelling and shrinking puts a lot of force on the slab, and it can cause it to
bend and break,which is obviously not something we want, since the slab is the
foundation that's holding up our house. Under these conditions post-tensioned
pre-stressing can be a very economical solution to creating a slab that's stiff
enough to resist that bending. While we're on the ground, let's look at some
bigger slabs. Remember that I already talked about how these slabs are going to
shrink and crack, and I discussed a very common method of dealing with this, by
placing control joints to force the concrete to crack in a controlled and
predictable mannerinside those joints.
But sometimes, those joints are not a desirable feature in a concrete slab. Think
about tennis courts. I would rather not have a bunch of joints that could become
tripping hazards. Or look at large warehouse floors, where I might be using heavy
forklifts, day in and day out. Every joint becomes a potential maintenance
problem as the hard wheels of the forklift hit them constantly throughout the
day. In these cases, the designer may use a design that employs the squeezing
benefits that we've discussed to squeeze the slab enough that cracks don't
develop as the concrete shrinks.
Or at least they get squeezed together and closed up as the shrinkage is
occurring. I've constructed hundreds of tennis courts this way. In fact, I got to go
back to my old high schoolwhere the school district was reconstructing all of the
tennis courts, something like nine or 10 concrete slabs. And they're big, they're 60
feet by 120 feet. They were originally designed as six inch thick slabs with a bunch
of rebar. And, I was able to propose a redesign to a five inch thick slab with just
post-tensioned pre-stressing steel. The pre-stressing steel, combined with some
techniques to reduce the friction between the slab and the ground as it shrinks,
and some good timing, resulted in huge cost-savings, and we have these big
concrete slabs out there with no joints or cracks to trip over.
Let's move up into the air. Up in the air we can use the advantages of pre-
stressing to get concrete to span long distances. Helping everything from
bridges, to buildings, to parking structures. Obviously bridges need to span over
something, so we can use all the benefits that we've discussed of active
reinforcing, to build that bridge out of concrete while getting it to span much
further than we could with just passive rebar reinforcing. And I can do this with
pre-cast, pre-tensioned concrete that's fabricated at a plant, and pieces are
hauled out to the job to be erected.
Or, I can use the cast in place, post-tension method of construction, to get the
same benefits.Same thing goes with parking structures. I don't want a lot of
columns that I have to drive around in a parking structure. So I use pre-stressing
to span longer distances between those columns, so I can push those spans
out to 60 feet or more. And again, I do this with either pre-cast pieces, or using
the cast in place method. Buildings are another case.
In many types of buildings, an architect would generally prefer to have as much
open space to work with as possible inside, without a bunch of columns getting
in the way. So again, I can use pre-stressing to get concrete to span over greater
distances. But I can also use it to decrease the thickness of the floor plate, or
make the concrete section thinner, because I have a stronger piece of
concrete. Sometimes this can provide a real benefit, from both an economical
standpoint, and even a feasibility standpoint.
Take something like a 10 story building. If I used structural steel beams to build
this, and spanned the distances that I need to span, I could end up with a floor
plate, or a section of that beam in the floor, that's 18 inches thick at each and
every floor. But I might be able to get the same spans with an eight inch thick,
cast in place, post-tensioned concrete section. Think about it, if I saved 10 inches
at every floor in that 10 story building, I knock a hundred inches off the height of
that building.
That translates into a lot less external cladding material, since my building's
shorter. In some areas, that height itself though might be an issue. Think about
buildings next to airports.They're gonna have height restrictions. So, reducing the
overall height of a building, might be a really big issue. Or, it might allow the
designer to actually squeeze in one more floor, and still come in under those
height restrictions. These are some great examples of how we use pre-
stressing to increase the usability of concrete.
But, when we start actively reinforcing the concrete, squeezing it together and
adding the upliftthat I've discussed, it does get a little technical. So let's go to the
next video, and look at a few things you need to be aware of.

Layout and stressing

- [Instructor] If you followed this discussion so far on pre-stressing concrete, it


may have occurred to you that the placement of this reinforcing can have a big
effect on what it does to the concrete structure. You may have also wondered just
how much force we're using to squeeze this concrete together, so let's take a
look. Let's talk about the force first. Pre-stressing steel is very high-strength
steel. Typically we use what we call Grade 270 pre-stressing steel,which means it
has a breaking strength of 270,000 pounds per square inch.
Just for a reference point, typical rebar reinforcing is Grade 60. When I install this
pre-stressing steel, I'm gonna tension it, remember, by anchoring at one end, and
using a hydraulic jack to pull on the other end. Now all of this is a
somewhat complicated procedure, it could probably take up its own course, but
for our purposes here, I want you to understand just how muchforce we're using
to pull on that cable. Using that hydraulic jack, we stress each cable to a forceof
about 33,000 pounds, not psi, pounds.
So again, I'm gonna provide you a reference: that's like hanging six cars off the
end of that half-inch cable. You wouldn't stand under those cars; don't stand
behind that hydraulic stressing jack. If something were to slip or break, that 60-
pound steel jack would be propelled backwardswith about as much as 33,000
pounds of force. You can't move fast enough to get out of the way, and if it hits
you, you're gonna lose every time. Believe me, I've investigated two
fatalitiesinvolving this operation, there's no room for mistakes, and everyone
involved in this operationneeds specialized training before they go to work.
Now, while we're on the subject of safety, keep in mind that when we stress these
cables, we are actually stretching them. They'll elongate just like a rubber band, in
fact a 100-foot long steel cable will elongate about eight inches. Now, if this
breaks or gets cut, think about that rubber band. If you stretch it out, someone
comes up and cuts it in the middle, which way does it go? It goes both
directions. So keep in mind that when you're looking at places that might be
dangerous to stand during the stressing operations, both ends of the cable are
hazardous, not just the end with the hydraulic jack.
Let's get back to all that force, and let's think about what it does to the concrete
it's squeezing together. If I place that pre-stressing steel in the middle of a slab or
a beam, and I do that in a flat profile, I get a simple squeezing force that puts the
concrete into compression, and increases the bending strength, and helps
prevent cracking like my tennis court or house foundation examples. If I place
that same steel down in the lower portion of something like a beam, I'm actually
gonna squeeze the bottom more than the top, and I can induce bending into the
concrete.
Sometimes I do this on purpose, for example, if I'm making pre-cast concrete
pieces at a plantfor a parking structure, we design to have this bending, or
camber, so that when I erect them in the field and gravity pulls down on the
middle a little bit, they deflect and flatten out. In this case that's what I want it to
do, but back in my tennis court examples, getting those cables installed in the
middle is really important because I don't want to have any bending. Now, if we
go back to the case of installing the pre-stressing steel in that draped
profile, where I have my high points over the columns and low points in the mid-
spans, so remember when I stretch those cables, I lift up on the center of the
slab, it's really important that I get those high and low points correct.
Again, the layout and installation of pre-stressing steel is somewhat
complicated, probably take up its own separate course, but what I do want you to
understand here at this point is that tolerances are extremely critical in this type
of construction. High and low points are specified by the designer, and getting
them right is critical to the performance of the structure. If I have too much
uplift I can actually bend that concrete to the point where it's detrimental. And
likewise, if I flatten out that profile of the pre-stressing steel cable and I don't get
enough uplift,the structure's not gonna perform like it was designed.
So let's close out this chapter on pre-stressing by summarizing a few things. Pre-
stressed concrete, whether it's pre-cast and pre-tensioned, or cast in place and
post-tensioned, can provide some incredible advantages, and it's another one of
those things that really increases the usability of concrete as a building material. It
gets us longer spans and thinner sections, but it's a specialized trade and it takes
some specialized training and equipment. With the very high forces that we're
tensioning this steel to, we have a lot going on inside that concrete, and that's
why we call it 'active reinforcing,' and we want it to work right, so tolerances are
very tight.
Make sure everyone involved is properly trained, and follow those plans.

Question #1 of 1

Active Reinforcing helps to prevent crack formation,


increases span lengths, and the bending capacity of the
concrete.
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Sustainability

- In this course, we've covered concrete as a building material and we've covered
some of the chemistry that goes into making concrete. We talked about some of
the science behind using it to build but I do think that these days, anytime we talk
about a building material or a technique, it's also important to discuss
sustainability. Now when we use the term sustainability,we can attack this issue
from a lot of different directions and I actually think that's the right approach. It's
hard to make a bunch of big changes but lots of smaller or incremental
changescan also really add up, so let's look at this from a few different angles.
First, let's go back to where we started this course, and talk about the cement and
cement production. Remember, cement's a manufactured product and it does
take a tremendous amount of energy to heat those mined ingredients to 2000
degrees. This is something that the industry is really focused on in terms of
improvement and becoming more sustainable, and I think they've shown
significant advances in several areas. One of those advancements is a significant
reduction in the amount of energy that it takes to make cement.
Today it takes about 37% less energy to produce a ton of cement than it did back
in 1972. I think that's a significant improvement and a real move towards
sustainability. The industry's figured out ways to save enough energy to power
2.3 million homes a year. Another move towards sustainability by the cement
industry is by changing what they burn to fire that kiln.They've made significant
advances in burning old used tires instead of coal or natural gas.
This might seem a little strange in a discussion on sustainability but
remember, used tires are a huge waste problem. They take up a tremendous
amount of space in landfills and they don't biodegrade. The cement industry
today diverts a significant quantity of these old tires away from those landfills and
burns them to heat their kilns, instead of burning a natural resource like
coal. They use so many tires in fact, that if you laid them end to end it would be
enough tires to stretch across the United States almost three times.
Let's stay with that topic of using industrial byproducts for a minute, but we're
gonna switch to concrete and we're gonna talk about those posilines
again. Remember, posilines are industrial byproducts. Things like fly ash that
remains after we burn coal at a power-plant, stuff that would otherwise go into
landfills. Concrete producers have made significant advances towards using a lot
of this stuff to make concrete. It cuts down on the quantity of cement that's
needed - that helps sustainability - and it diverts this industrial waste away from
landfills.
In fact we divert enough of this waste away from landfills to fill a freight train over
386 miles long. So I think that these are some significant advancements and
they're important to remember and include in a discussion on sustainability. You
know since we talked about rebarI'll also go ahead and mention that virtually all
of the rebar manufactured around the world is manufactured from scrap
steel. Not virgin ore or mined metals; it's all made from scrap.
Let's shift gears again and talk about longevity. I think that if you wanna judge
the sustainabilityof a building material or a method, you have to give some
consideration to how long it's going to last. I think concrete has this one
down. Remember the Pantheon in Rome? That concrete dome built 2000 years
ago, still standing? That's sustainability and there are many examples like
that. Not too far from our studios here in California, we have a section of concrete
freeway on Interstate 10. It was placed over 65 years ago and it still carries more
than 240,000 vehicles a day.
Again, I think this is a pretty good example of sustainability. There's probably
more that we could talk about here, for example there are some efforts that have
been seen some success in making concrete buildings that absorb carbon and
pollution from the air, and the industry's tackling a number of other issues. But it
is time to start wrapping things up. If you're interested in more resources, I'll give
you a few places to look as we conclude things in our next video.

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Next steps

- I wanna thank you for joining me to learn about concrete and all of its uses and
effects on the construction industry. It's just a material that's used so much that
you need to have a good understanding of how it really works, in order to be a
successful construction management professional. Concrete and concrete
construction is a big topic, though, with lots of different sub-topics and issues to
explore. If you're really interested in learning more, I think two of the best sources
out there are found on the internet at concrete.org and cement.org. These have
both been around for quite a while; concrete.org belongs to the American
Concrete Institute,which is actually an international organization, they have
chapters all over the world, and their site has lots of information: books and
design codes you can purchase and lots of free, downloadable resources as well.
Cement.org belongs to the Portland Cement Association, also a very large
organization with a worldwide reach. The site contains great information on
processes and design issues, they have lots of photos and resources
like economic and usage forecasts, so it's a great resource. Now, if you're
interested in post-tensioned, cast-and-place concrete, I would suggest you
visit the Post-Tensioning Institute's websites. They have many publications
available there, some of which I wrote while I worked there.
And if you wanna learn more about pre-tensioned, precast concrete, go check out
the Precast Concrete Institute's website. Again, thank you for watching my
course; don't forget that we're constantly expanding our offerings here, and we
have many other courses related to construction management; the
architecture, engineering, and construction, or AEC industry; as well as many
courses to help you learn how to use some of the software that we regularly use
here in construction management. So good luck as you continue to improve your
skills and knowledge, and I hope to see you back again in another course.

What is concrete's major benefit when considering


sustainability?
You’re correct!
longevity