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Structural Engineering: Concrete Slabs and Its Benefits

31 January 2019

Engineers wish they could winch single-pieces of concrete in place and form an entire structure from the fewest number of components. That’s not exactly a practical approach, though. The next best thing is concrete slabbing. Employing concrete slabs, we have all the building blocks we could ever need. Leaving the applications aside for a minute, just what does it take to form one of these super-durable building blocks?

Deconstructing Concrete Slabs

Solid as a rock, the only elements that are allowed to exist inside concrete are the steel reinforcing rods that inject the material with structural strength. Still, if a structural engineering service can justify the move, the installation of a steel-free slab is favoured. For example, as a ground-level floor, the slab-on-ground conditions evaluated here favour a plain concrete slab. The ground distributes ground energies, the flexural resilience of the construction material negates sagging, and the reinforced steel elements are kept back for another stage of the project.

Plain vs. Reinforced Concrete Slabs

There are plenty of advantages to using steel-reinforced concrete slabs. Still, prestressed iron rods can rust, and they generally add design complications. By carrying out a technically oriented project study, we’ve chosen solid concrete for a ground floor. Thicker than the alternative, though, the plain floor requires a customized drainage system. Furthermore, there’s no room for a large crawlspace. Is that bad news? Crawlspaces flood and cause structural weak points. Reducing the crawlspace dimensions, the plain floor lays heavy and solid. It functions as the structure’s foundations, too. As for steel-reinforced concrete slabs, well, they can accommodate heavier loads, plus they do leave space for all kinds of subsurface features.

Raising Concrete Blocks to the Sky

Made of one wide block, the solid slab distributes loading forces and structural stresses. It performs as a weight sink, a mechanism for absorbing then dissipating a mass of conflicting kinetic and potential energies. The building blocks create paving and ground floors, but they also rise on cranes to form suspended slabs. Picture a multi-storey parking structure, which we see holding its own weight, plus the weight of hundreds of vehicles. For a professional engineering consultant, there are hundreds of design factors to consider here. There’s the cold, the transient loads, the wind, ice and seismic activity encountered, plus scores of material fatiguing factors to assess.

So hundreds of bricks and thousands of fasteners make a project feasibility study next to impossible to address. By using concrete slabs, we strip away layers of overly elaborate engineering equations. The structure scales without issue, it incorporates mesh bars or a solid concrete core, and it gains a force and stress-distributing mechanism. For the slab favouring designer, though, new issues arise, for there are unique drainage and maintenance issues to resolve now.

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