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Concrete In Australia : September 2014
Concrete in Australia Vol 40 No 3 21 MATERIALS Have you hugged a concrete pillar today? by Bill Gates The car I drive to work is made of around 2600 pounds of steel, 800 pounds of plastic, and 400 pounds of light metal alloys. The trip from my house to the office is roughly four miles long, all surface streets, which means I travel over some 15,000 tons of concrete each morning. Once I’m at the office, I usually open a can of Diet Coke. Over the course of the day I might drink three or four. All those cans also add up to something like 35 pounds of aluminium a year. I got to thinking about all this after reading Making the Modern World: Materials and Dematerialization by my favourite author, the historian Vaclav Smil. Not only did I learn some mind-blowing facts, but I also gained a new appreciation for all the materials that make modern life possible. I had already read Smil’s books on energy and diet. Smil says at the start of Making the Modern World that he won’t spend much time on those topics (which means climate change doesn’t come up much). Instead he’s interested in the materials we use to meet the demands of modern life. Can we make enough steel for all those cars and enough concrete for all those roads? What are the risks if we do? In other words, can we bring billions of people out of poverty without destroying the environment? Smil excels at answering big questions like these. Although he doesn’t make many predictions, he does something that’s even more valuable: He explains the past. He helps you understand how we got where we are, which tells you something about where we’re going. I study Smil’s histories so I can understand the future. He argues that the most important man-made material is concrete, both in terms of the amount we produce each year and the total mass we’ve laid down. Concrete is the foundation (literally) for the massive expansion of urban areas of the past several decades, which has been a big factor in cutting the rate of extreme poverty in half since 1990. In 1950, the world made roughly as much steel as cement (a key ingredient in concrete); by 2010, steel production had grown by a factor of eight, but cement had gone up by a factor of 25. [An animated GIF online in Gate’s blog] shows the dramatic transformation of Shanghai since 1987. Most of what you’re seeing in that picture is concrete, steel, and glass. Read more at: <www.gatesnotes.com/Books/Making-the- Modern-World>. ...now available from PCTE. The UTest range. Lab testing equipment... UTest manufacture laboratory test equipment for concrete, cement, aggregates and asphalt in addition to their general laboratory equpment. The excellent range of PCTE products and service now extends into the laboratory with compression testing machines, slump cones, curing tanks and much more. PCTE still provide expertise in servicing your field testing requirements with a complete NDT range, hand chosen to offer the best available in the market. Visit the PCTE website for more product information. PCTE.EA.CIA.1408PGX Brisbane Sydney Melbourne Perth www.pcte.com.au 0408 034 668 UT UT UT UT UT UT UTTesesesesesessestttttt ma ma ma ma ma ma maa mnu nu nu nu nu nu nu n fafafafafafaf ctctctctttttur ur ur ur urrrreeeeeee ccccccceeeeee China used more cement in the last three years than the US used in the entire 20th century. SOURCES: USGS, CEMENT STATISTICS 1900-2012; USGS, MINERAL INDUSTRY OF CHINA 1990-2013CHIN CIA 40-3 FINAL.indb 21 CIA 40-3 FINAL.indb 21 26/08/14 9:18 AM 26/08/14 9:18 AM