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Reinforced concrete is a type of modern material which includes imbedded metal bars, rods, wires or other slender members and the concrete act together with metal in resisting forces (the concrete resist compression and the metal resist tension). Owing to the inherent advantages of concrete and the metal, reinforced concrete is widely used by engineers and architects to build residential buildings for over a century (R). Dramatically, reinforced concrete was not invented by engineers. It was invented by Joseph Monier (1849), who was a Parisian gardener and made garden pots and tubs of concrete reinforced with an iron mesh. After that, the reinforced concrete provided much more scope for the engineer to design structures and leaded to development of building industry throughout the world. This essay is going to discuss the benefits and drawbacks of reinforced concrete and compare with other building materials, such as timber, concrete, brick and stone. During this century, reinforced concrete has met many big engineering problems. However, it is vitally important for engineers and it can not be replaced by other building materials.
Before the reinforced concrete was invented in 19th century, stone, timber, concrete and glass were used to construct buildings and those materials have serious weaknesses in several aspects. However, the reinforced concrete could overcome most of them. One main benefit to the building construction caused by reinforced concrete is from engineers who believe that by using it in main structure of a residential building, the house has met less dangerousness of fire than wooden structure buildings. Stollard and Abrahams (1999) studied the fire resistance of several building materials. In these people's study, the oversize timbers could resist the fire within 350â„ƒ and if the temperatures at the surface surpass 350â„ƒ, the wood would burn and the charring rate may change form 0.5mm/min to 0.83 mm/min (Stollard and Abrahams, 1999). As a result, to make the structural is safety, the engineers have to design the building by using timber elements which have had to be deliberately oversized and the cost of the project would be dramatically increased. However, as Stollard and Abrahams (1999) have indicated that the reinforced concrete can easy to resist the fire within 4 hours (Stollard and Abrahams, 1999). Owing to this, the safety of reinforced concrete indeed exceeds than timber.
Apart from Stollard and Abrahams have researched, the methods used to improve structural fire resistance of the reinforced concrete is quite advanced. A comprehensive amount of fire-testing research and analysis have been directed towards fire resistance techniques applicable to reinforced concrete structures. Fitzgerald (2004) notes that the well designed fire barriers could extremely improve the safety of reinforced concrete building (Fitzgerald, 2004). For example, the fire barriers can protect people from combustion products while they remain in the building or wait for rescue. Furthermore, the engineers can use some design methods to improve the reinforced concrete building's durability during the fire. Such as to increase the thickness of surface concrete covers (Reynolds, C. E., Steedman, J. C. and Threlfall, A. J., 2008).
A second reason that some engineers hold to support reinforced concrete can not be replaced is that it has excellent performance during the earthquake. This characteristic is extremely important when engineers construct buildings in frequent earthquake region. In general, the damage to buildings varies to a great extent with the building's ability to dissipate energy and dampen the vibration during an earthquake. To resist the earthquake, the engineers put the reinforced concrete shear wall in high-rise residential building and normal residential building. This wall can absorb a great deal of energy during the earthquake to make the structure safely. A study by Penelis and Kappos (1997) shows that when the earthquake happens, the shear force is relatively high. This may require unusually large structural members especially in the lower floors. Thus, the reinforced concrete shear wall can be considered as a best solution for carrying the shear force generated by earthquake (Penelis and Kappos, 1997). In contrast, a devastating earthquake hit Tangshan, which is a city of China, in 1976. The entire city was flattened and over 200,000 people died in this disaster. The reason why the whole city was destroyed is that the buildings were constructed by brick, concrete and stone. Therefore, the reinforced concrete may be the best choice to build the city to make the citizens safely.
In addition¼ŒReinforced concrete structures have the potential to be very durable and capable of withstanding a variety of adverse environmental conditions. To be more precise, the service life of reinforced concrete is long (usually more than 75 years) and with low maintenance cost. Generally, it is easy to meet the construction code's demands in different countries. For example, the China's technical specification for reinforced concrete structures requires that the residential buildings must be used no less than 75 years. Besides, if the reinforced concrete residential buildings were not struck by powerful earthquake, it almost do not need repair or retrofit during the 75 years. So that the maintenance cost is extraordinary low. According to Morinaga's (1991) research, there are two major factors, which cause corrosion of reinforcement in concrete to proceed to an unacceptable degree and as a result, the sever life of the building was reduced. However, the corrosion works at a low steady rate. So, the sever life is easy to reach the Code's request (Morinaga, 1991).
However, the reinforced concrete indeed has some drawbacks in terms of quality control and environmental impact.
Taking all the factors above into account, despite that reinforced concrete seems to have some weaknesses during the construction today. However, it is of course true that most residential buildings can succeed with reinforced concrete. Furthermore, the material alone is not enough to guarantee that the reinforced concrete residential buildings will survive a tough earthquake or fire. It must have smart engineering and be well built and well designed if you hope that it will make it through the hardest of hits.
The last thing to be aware of is that at times, your choice of building will not make one bit of difference. Your agonizing over reinforced concrete buildings versus steel buildings in surviving tornadoes will be for nothing if the storm is one of the most powerful kinds they are. Fortunately, they do not occur regularly or even often at all, so you will hopefully never need to know this information at all.
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