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

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  111 Ratings  ·  16 Reviews
Concrete: We use it for our buildings, bridges, dams, and roads. We walk on it, drive on it, and many of us live and work within its walls. But very few of us know what it is. We take for granted this ubiquitous substance, which both literally and figuratively comprises much of modern civilization’s constructed environment; yet the story of its creation and development fea ...more
Hardcover, 396 pages
Published November 22nd 2011 by Prometheus Books (first published January 1st 2011)
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Nov 13, 2014 rated it liked it
Overall, this was quite a good book about the history of concrete usage from its earliest discovery to the modern day. In addition to detailed (sometimes too detailed) descriptions of the use of concrete, the author talks about concrete's chemical properties, its strengths and weaknesses, its commercial and artistic history, and the life stories of those who were major players in the story of concrete construction. The book drags a bit at times-- the excess of detail mentioned above creates occa ...more
Ann Joyner
Sep 04, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another Perspective

The author makes many great points about the deficiencies in current concrete design but he overlooks two key points. The first is that most structures, particularly buildings, become functionally obsolescent in less than fifty years so why spend additional money extending their life? The second is that improvements in design happen so slowly because design professionals are risk averse. Most see little risk in using designs that are common practice and great risk in trying so
Concrete Planet is an interesting, well written and accessible history of concrete - how it was (probably) discovered/manufactured; the various types of cement and concrete; it's uses in the past and present and its various strengths and faults.
Mar 13, 2012 rated it liked it
Non-fiction in the style of Kurlansky (Salt, Cod), but for Concete. A history of Concrete from pre-history speculation of superheating limestone to get lime, to meso-american lime mixture floors. There is natural cement (Lime, water), roman cement (Lime, Water, pumice/pollolana (volcanic soil). Then there is portland cement - over back roman cement and then polverize and remix with water and aggregate. There is tremendous history of the Pantheon. It was built by Hadrian and not Marcus Agrippa as ...more
Benj FitzPatrick
Aug 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
I expected a rote chronology of the history of concrete with a focus on its production and the structures created from it. However, the story presented in these pages was far from rote, which is not to say that it was not thorough, and detailed the lives of many of the people and a fair amount of the history surrounding concrete. Additionally, it pointed out a fact I had not realized, that concrete can last thousands of years, but our buildings only tend to last 50. In other words, to say I was ...more
Aug 24, 2013 rated it liked it
Concrete Planet (2011) by Robert Courland is a decent effort at a book that looks at the history of concrete. This is clearly going to be a heavy, non-abstract book. The lessons of the book will also be reinforced. At some stage toward the end cracks may also appear.
The books chapters on the discovery of concrete and it’s use and development as far as the middle of C18 are really good. The way that concrete is likely to have been discovered and then was used in Ancient Rome is fascinating. The c
Apr 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book was interesting especially since I read it while in southern Spain this past week exploring old Roman towns and fortifications. Like the author, Robert Courland, I have been very impressed with roman structures and was fascinated by how well they were constructed when we visited Italy two years ago. It was very enlightening to read explanations for why our modern roads and bridges are crumbling but I have little hope that our political process will embrace longer term and more cost eff ...more
Leigh Coop
Jul 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: book-club
This is a great read even if you don't think you are interested in concrete. Great history and very controversial theory about why our buildings and bridges only last 100 years at most (it's the metal rebar that rusts, adds a layer of rust and cracks the concrete). Love the history. Hate the idea of having to spend a trillion dollars replacing our old infrastructure. Hope that the engineering establishment are paying attention to this.
Apr 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
I really like all the prehistory about a temple in Turkey and then all the stuff about concrete in the roman world. So far it is readable and interesting. When he gotto the world of patents in England I lost interest. But the book was great because I learned so much about old, old places and transport and globalization on the Mediterranean.
Aug 25, 2012 rated it liked it
A history on concrete from prehistoric times to the present. Romans are presented as masters of the use of this material, making structures that have lasted 2000 years. Vignettes of various key figures in the development of modern concrete are presented. Book is non-technical.
Jan 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
Very interesting read, the author not only provides technical aspects of concrete development over the centuries but also delves into both the genius and oddities of those involved in its history.Makes for a informative and entertaining story..
Nov 11, 2015 rated it liked it
I enjoyed the book, and found it to be fairly easy to read. I'm no writer, so I'll point to a very good review by John Walker
Jeremy German
I learned quite a bit from this book but man was it a slog. It wasn't badly written by any means and it was interesting but for some reason I couldn't read more than a few pages at a clip. I managed to finish several other books while I was making my way through.

Apr 04, 2013 marked it as to-read-3rd
Recommended to Richard by: Ira Flatow
Jun 21, 2015 rated it liked it
seems like a lot of research went into this book - I liked the history and thought the author did a good job of explaining the technical stuff
Scot Ragsdale
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“Environmental issues would remain, as the carbon dioxide generated by the kilning of billions of bricks would probably be equivalent to the vast volume of greenhouse gases currently being produced by the cement industry (estimated to equal that produced by twenty-two million automobiles in the United States alone).” 0 likes
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