If you think about it, construction today really hasn’t changed all that much for thousands of years. Buildings all had walls, roofs, doors and windows. What has changed most noticeably is the way buildings are constructed and the technology we can use in the 21st century to make buildings smarter and more sophisticated. But in reality, the principals are still roughly the same, as are a lot of the materials we use.
If you look at some of the world’s oldest buildings such as the pyramids, they were built from large rectangular stone blocks, an ancient take on the modern day building block. Sun-dried bricks were first used in construction almost 6000 years ago with techniques moving to kiln-burnt bricks in 1500BC, a technique that is still used today. Similarly, fired roof tiles were thought to have been first used in the 3rd Millennium BC during the Bronze Age, and over 4000 years later they still adorn the rooftops of millions of houses in Britain. Even though the techniques, equipment, and technology used to make these products in the 21st century are different, the principles are still very much the same, and the use of these historical products and the techniques have not changed out of all recognition since their first use many thousands of years ago.
Concrete is a familiar product that is used in every building we see today. Whether it is used to form the foundations buildings sit on, or is pre-fabricated into panels off-site, the concrete we use today has not changed that much since it was used to build the Colosseum almost 2000 years ago. A great testimony to the way in which concrete was not only used in construction but also as to how it has stood the test of time, is the domed temple of the Pantheon which was built in A.D 128.
It’s not just the materials that were used, but the tools and techniques that have stood the test of time. Axes, chisels and planes were all tools used in the Bronze and Iron age. Odometers were first used by the Ancient Greeks, and rudimentary cranes were first used for lifting heavy loads in early 6th century BC with the winch and pulley hoist being introduced soon after. Clay plumbing pipes laid beneath the ground were eventually replaced by lead piping in Roman times, and clear and coloured glass was introduced to create beautiful mosaic and clear windows. Mortice and tenon joints were first thought to have been used in the masonry construction of the Osirion, one of the oldest cities of ancient Egypt and these joints are still used today in timber post and beam construction.
The most noticeable change in construction has been the technological advances that allow us to construct the immense buildings we have today. When you look back at how our predecessors used materials, tools and methods to build such amazing structures as the Colosseum, the pyramids and the Parthenon, there really isn’t much that has changed apart from the technology that has helped us to improve and perfect on what was already there.
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