The Concrete Jungle A Look at the Material that Binds Us

Not for nothing is New York City often called “the concrete jungle.” Thousands of square miles of pavement of all descriptions cover the city, from newly-poured (and quickly graffiti'ed) cement sidewalks to cobblestones left over from the 1800s. Caring for and repairing these acres and acres of surface is a huge job–and co-op and condo buildings bear much of the responsibility of keeping the pavement outside their front doors in good shape. Negligence can not only result in injuries to residents and passers-by, but that in turn can bring down costly, drawn-out litigation onto the building itself. Here are some things you might not know about concrete.

Understanding Terms

The American Concrete Institute (ACI) is a nonprofit technical and educational society organized in 1904, and one of the world's leading authorities on concrete technology. According to ACI’s official dictionary of terminology, concrete is a “mixture of hydraulic cement, aggregates, and water, with or without admixtures, fibers, or other cementitious materials.”

By contrast, cement is “a binding material that sets and hardens by chemical reaction with water and is capable of doing so underwater.” Examples include portland and slag cement.

Simply put, cement is used to make concrete, just like eggs are used to make cake.

The two words are often used interchangeably in both casual conversation and in the media, but members of the industry find the latter particularly irksome.

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