The History of Reinforced Concrete

Posted on February 9, 2014

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The history of concrete goes back as far as the beginning of human civilizations in ancient times. But it was’t until more recent centuries that man began reinforcing concrete with rebar and other metals for construction purposes. The process of reinforcing concrete consists of embedding steel reinforcing bars, also knows as rebar, in concrete before it sets, in order to support the concrete from tensile stresses. Let’s review the history of reinforced concrete by examining some of the minds that impacted the concrete construction industry with their innovative work.
The Brilliant Brains that Have Supported Reinforced Concrete:

1848 – Jean-Louis Lambot

Lambot was the first person to use reinforced concrete. He did so by using iron bars and wire mesh to reinforce several concrete rowboats…And yes, the rowboats did float.

1854 – William B. Wilkinson

Wilkinson used iron bars and wire rope to reinforce the concrete floors of a two-story cottage he was building for his servants. It is generally accepted as the first building to use reinforced concrete.

1850 – 1880 – François Coignet

Coignet was a 19th century French industrialist. A pioneer of reinforced concrete, Coignet was the first to use iron reinforced concrete in construction on a widespread scale.

1889 – Gyozo Mihailich

Mihailich is credited with designing the first arch bridge to use reinforced concrete. The bridge was built in the village of Solt, Hungary.

1891 – George Bartholomew

Bartholomew placed the first concrete street of the United States in Bellefontaine, Ohio. Unbelievably, and perhaps the greatest testament to Bartholomew’s work with concrete, the street is still there today!

1901 – Arthur Henry Symons

Symons designed a column clamp to assist in construction. With the help of his column clamp in construction, tying and fastening of units to hold column form sides together became much easier.

1905 – Frank Lloyd Wright

Construction of Wright’s Unity Temple in Oak Park, Illinois began in the early 1900s. Wright, whose architectural style is distinct and recognizable around the world, designed Unity Temple to use four massive, identical concrete walls so that the expansive formwork could be repeated multiple times.

1927 – Eugene Freyssinet

Freyssinet developed pre-stressed concrete. This revolutionary method in concrete construction involved prestressing tendons such as cables. This made it possible to build larger and more resilient structures that could not be accomplished with traditional reinforced concrete alone.

1935 – Pier Luigi Nervi

Nervi built the Orvieto Aircraft Hangers for the Italian Air Force. He accomplished this one-of-a-kind unique construction project with thin shell construction. Thin shell construction uses curved structures to reinforce curved surfaces such as ship hulls or domes.

1962 – Bertrand Goldberg

Goldberg’s twin towers in Marina City, on the bank of the Chicago River in downtown Chicago, marked the beginning of including reinforced concrete in modern skyscrapers during construction. At the time of their construction in the 60’s, the towers set the height record at 588 feet.

1982 – Benner-Nawman, Inc.

Benner-Nawman, Inc., one of the leading professional concrete construction tool manufacturers, introduced a new portable electric/hydraulic tool capable of cutting up to a 3/4″ (#6) rebar out in the field for reinforced concrete projects. Over the years, Benner-Nawman, and BN Products, have contributed a lot to the concrete construction industry with a number of innovative tools.