“In Construction, everyone understands that concrete cracks. That is just one of the characteristics of concrete. It is as fundamental as how water make things wet. But I challenged that.”
In one of Dan’s school building project though, their client wanted polished concrete floors instead of carpet for easier maintenance. There was just one little niche that made their client frown after viewing floor samples - they did not’t like the big cracks on the concrete floors.
Dan called a meeting with the engineers immediately to try and figure out a solution to keep concrete from cracking. And they said, “oh, we'll just put lots of reinforcing steel in the concrete to make it so strong that it won't crack.” Dan did what the engineers said, yet what happened afterwards was something even more terrifying than having big cracks.
“We put all of this reinforcing steel in the concrete to prevent big cracks, what we found is that the steel would now not let the concrete shrink every 10 feet, but the concrete still had to shrink somehow. So, every few inches we got a tiny little hairline crack in the concrete. The steel wouldn't let it all shrink and open big cracks, but when we put the stain on the concrete, it created this dark line every few inches. And so, it looked like there was more tracks than ever.”
Everyone was a little frustrated at the situation, and one of the architects of the school said, “why in the world can't someone just invent concrete that doesn't crack?” Dan was inspired and thought to himself, “You know, everyone says concrete has to crack, but why does it have to crack?”
He immediately took on this research project personally, to figure out what makes concrete shrink and crack, and what can be done to stop that from happening. Over the course of about a year, trying everything they could: talking to snake oil salesman, anyone who claimed that they had a way to keep concrete from shrinking they did not’t find anything that work. But over the course of trying all of those things, they figured out things that could work by combining different materials together.
“I imagine the first people deciding that they were going to bake a cake. All people have ever done was putting flour and water together; The caveman ground wheat on a stone and they made flower; then they mixed it with water, baked it in charcoal and they ate it. They stayed alive using this method. As the caveman advanced in survival, someone thought, 'This flour and water is really Yucky! What if we made it taste better?' Sometime later someone discover sugar, and people start adding sweetness to their mixture. A couple weeks go by and someone discovers yeast, and people start adding volume to their mixture... Eventually, someone figures out how to make cake out of all of these random ingredients and isn't that much tastier compared to just flour and water covered with ashes? Well, that's kind of how it was with us.”
But the recipe for non-cracking concrete wasn't easy to make. After many months of research and experiments, none of the solutions Dan's team tried worked. They tried every claimed solution on the planet! Finally they started to combine ingredients together and there is where the spark went off. "We were able to create a recipe by doing a whole bunch of different things in tandem with each other. The result of our labors was to finally pour concrete that didn't crack in our projects." Last year, Dan's team completed a grocery store called Kent’s market in plain city. The entire floor was about 220 ft by 180 ft with absolutely no cracks. "It just looks like a perfect floor!" Dan told me excitedly. "And when your grocery cart goes down the aisle, you won't hear that 'clackety clack' sound as you go over every joint.”
Dan's team ended up calling their product "magic lab", because it truly worked like magic!
Dan Pratt studied Construction Management at Brigham Young University. He is currently the Vice President of Hughes General. He has more than 30 years of construction experience and as such he has overseen the construction of more than 200 educational projects in addition to private office buildings, manufacturing facilities, and various municipal structures.