Futures and Education
Concrete has rapidly become the building material of choice in the modern age due to the flexibility (when it’s poured) and durability of the product. It can be reinforced, moulded to create curves, and dressed up to be aesthetically pleasing, yet maintain strength and stability. Aggregates are critical in providing not only the substance and strength for the concrete mix but also in providing the solid foundations for the concrete to anchor to.
When you look at what we build almost everything has a need for aggregates at some point during site preparation, construction or completion. Aggregates are essential to our daily life from the obvious building applications to the not so obvious water filtration systems. In their unprocessed form they provide the lakes and river beds that diverse species of fish and wildlife rely on to survive. They are the mountains we ski on, the hills we climb, the meadows and fields we grow things in and the foundation that all we build is anchored to.
In the last Century there has been a huge demand for building products that are stronger, more durable, cheaper, easier to produce and less time and effort to work with. Technology and the integration of new materials into conventional building aggregates and how they are applied, have created a whole new appreciation of sand, stone gravel, concrete and asphalt.
One of the biggest impacts has been the introduction of acrylic and latex polymers into concrete. Acrylic polymers improve adhesion to old surfaces and reduce the permeability (minimizing the intrusion of chlorides, salts and carbon dioxide). In addition, they increase the flexural and tensile strength, widen the freeze and thaw durability and make the product substantially more abrasion resistant. Latex polymers are more commonly found in patching materials, grouts, plaster and impermeable toppings for road surfaces. There are 5 commonly used polymer groups used with concrete formulation and more specific information referring to their types and applications can be found from our LINKS page.
The advancement of the technology has given architects the ability to design and build structures that would not have been possible 75 years ago. In the late 1940’s the legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright designed a series of controversial support columns for the S C Johnson Company Administration Building that the government forced them to test, subjecting them to load tests that far exceeded the engineered loads. The reason they worked so well – good design and a new generation of additives in the concrete.
The newer methods of sorting aggregate material has also been an important component to the advancement of construction techniques, especially in the last 2 decades. Screening machinery and sorting methods have resulted in a new generation of aggregate products, opening the door for more diverse applications and giving product developers more to choose from. It has also created more employment opportunities as the industry expands into areas far outside of it’s original mine, quarry, sort and supply operation.
The new technologies, methods and product applications have generated the development of a more diverse skillset for the aggregate industry. There are tremendous opportunities for long and meaningful careers in research and development, operations, logistics, technicians, mechanics, machine operators and support staff. Currently, the aggregate industry is a major contributor to the provincial and regional economies.