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Concrete is the most commonly used construction material on the planet. Commercial and residential structures, buildings, bridges, sidewalks, and freeway barrier walls are made with concrete. There will always be an immense demand for it – to make our buildings strong, our homes safe, our roads reliable. No longer simply the built-to-last, foundational, not-that-exciting (to the lay person) player in the building business, concrete continues to evolve and find new ways to be useful. Now more than ever, it’s being used in appealing, more personal ways.

Sensational Sidewalks
In the 1990s, some of us thought we were cutting-edge when we re-surfaced our sidewalk or patio in colored, stamped decorative concrete, because that was new and interesting. In fact, concrete industry innovators were applying colors and design elements to their material in the late 1800s. Now, stamped, decorative concrete is everywhere; we’re accustomed to seeing art and beauty in driveways, around pools and bordering gardens. Concrete has always been more interesting than you’d think. forecasts a bright future for the decorative concrete market. (Decorative concrete is defined as regular concrete with additional touches of customized coloring, patterns or finishes.) The report’s September, 2019 headline reads: “2019 Global Market to Reach $14.5 Billion.” According to the article, this healthy trend is partly fueled by the increasing numbers of planned commercial and residential infrastructure projects.

Stamped concrete can be colored and stamped into a pattern that looks and is textured like stones, tile, even wood. In the early 1900s, stars like Charlie Chaplin and Mary Pickford used it throughout their posh Hollywood estates. Future-whisperer Walt Disney was one of the first to embrace stamped concrete technology on a large scale, when he built Epcot in the early 1980s. Brilliant, beautifully designed ‘streets,’ walkways and geometric accents are featured throughout the park. Staining concrete and using castings on building facades, precast concrete companies jumped on the trend. By the 2000s, stamped, decorative concrete was the fastest-growing segment in the concrete market.

Road Racket
Seventy-five percent of the high, concrete barrier walls on freeways across the U.S. are built of cinderblock or pre-cast concrete. Those walls are not there to increase road safety; their purpose is to minimize or cancel noise. The first noise barrier wall was built in California in 1968. In 1969, the National Environmental Policy Act officially acknowledged concerns about urban sprawl, and managing the noise associated with development near freeways. There are now 2,748 miles of these walls across the U.S. The FHWA (Federal Highway Administration) guidelines state that walls “must be designed to preserve aesthetic values and scenic vistas.”

Although barrier walls on freeways have been around for fifty years, it seems they’re being installed at a dizzying pace nowadays. You can spot which ones are older; they might have some color, but most are just basic concrete walls. They are getting more interesting, though; many of the new barriers feature unique designs that relate to their location and community. Some are actually quite attractive, a new medium for decorative concrete.

It’s not unusual to see concrete noise barrier walls featuring a local or regional scene, a pictorial representation of the area’s geography, indigenous people, or customs. If the walls must be there, at least they can enhance the community’s image while performing an important job. According to the FHWA, the average cost of building a sound wall is $30.78 per square foot; between 2008 and 2010, roughly $554 million worth of sound walls were built. 

There will always be a huge demand for concrete, in standard or precast form; that’s not likely to change. What is changing is its market reach, which continues to expand, responding to consumer trends. Turns out this hundreds-years-old material isn’t just strong; it can tell stories, and dress up your home or business property.

If your company is installing decorative concrete or cutting precast concrete, only the best will do. For the finest concrete and masonry cutting equipment, visit our website – - or call us today: 888.283.2597.