The History of Aggregate
Historically aggregates have been around since before man first walked the earth, formed in the fires of volcanoes and moulded by erosion, time, water and glaciers. The first type of concrete, a mixture of gypsum and lime, was used in ancient Egypt during the building of the pyramids as a mortar between the stones. It was in Roman times that concrete really became a construction material of choice. They had a recipe that used volcanic ash, lime and salt water that produced a product that was incredibly strong. Unfortunately, the curing time of the Roman concrete was significantly longer than today’s concrete. The Romans were excellent engineers and used rock and concrete in almost everything they built. They constructed aqueducts, bridges, roads and buildings that are still standing today. In almost every country in the world you can find ancient structures that used some form of aggregates or concrete.
Closer to home, in our province of B.C., our primary building material was wood. It wasn’t until after the great Vancouver fire of 1886 that new commercial structures had to be built of brick and stone to withstand another fire. This was the start of a strong construction industry on the lower mainland where aggregates were the primary building commodity. Local sites were developed to supply the rapidly growing Lower Mainland with aggregate and cement manufacturing products. The readily available materials meant that structures could be constructed rapidly and economically. As the industrial and manufacturing hubs spread out further into other areas of the province the need for aggregate building materials increased, triggering exploration for new supply areas and other minerals. Wherever communities were springing up, the need for aggregate products was there.
Today, we are able to create and build towering structures with steel and concrete that were unimaginable 100 years ago. Advancements in metallurgy and concrete formulations make the impossible possible. Without quality aggregates, none of the new building and architectural marvels would be achievable.
Our construction history here in B.C. is brief when compared to the rest of the world. The two oldest commercial buildings in Vancouver were built after the fire of 1886, the Ferguson Block at No. 2 Powell Street and the Byrne Building, located across the street at Water and Carrall, the site of Gassy Jack’s original saloon. It’s well worth the time to take a tour of the historical sections of Vancouver, Victoria and Nelson if only to see what these buildings are built with and built on.