Architects are both technicians and dreamers. They conjure designs that guide the construction industry, from turning soil to dropping off the keys. Architecture is a world of consideration, but moisture content is a crucial component in any strong and durable concrete building. Designers know that, but how many turn to the fundamentals of relative humidity (RH) as their design guide?
An architectural understanding of concrete moisture meter technology is in order. Builders translate the need for chemistry, application and patience the minute an architect chooses a concrete foundation. In this sense, it is architects who really create the importance of concrete moisture meter testing with RH in mind. Flooring installers must allow sufficient time for moisture content to rise from the bottom of a slab to the surface and evaporate.
For real design assurance, concrete moisture meter testing must include in situ RH probes. They are placed inside drilled holes to assess concrete moisture content at 40% depth within the slab. Systems such as the Wagner Rapid RH® provide crucial information on slab readiness. For installers, RH testing provides the green light for flooring finishes and applications. For architects, RH testing represents a fundamental building process which reaches beyond simple installation times.
RH can be guided by geography, climate, topography and aesthetics. It exists both within, and outside of, concrete structures. The movement between the two is what makes RH testing within the concrete so fundamental to success. When ambient RH is low, concrete releases water vapor into the air; when ambient RH is high, concrete absorbs it.
Yet, great architecture merges mechanics with art. An understanding of concrete moisture content liberates architects to consider building materials designed with moisture content in mind. As the establishment of ASTM F2170 (and the disallowance of F1869) indicates, RH concrete moisture meter testing acknowledges the evolution of lightweight concrete applications (as well RH testing itself). A creative designer can incorporate the moisture content characteristics of concrete variables into an architectural plan.
Concrete slabs dry at different rates in different areas over time. While moisture content variables can drive installers (and general contractors) crazy, architects occupy a different viewpoint. When learning (for example) that lightweight concrete mixes may produce the same compressive strength, architects may go minimalist on concrete density. When learning that columns and walls cause concrete beneath them to dry more slowly, architects are able to re-consider column materials and their placement in the plan. Only accurate RH testing ensures that all elements of the plan are ready for the next stage.
How Does This Fit?
Where does concrete moisture content fit in architectural design? It does so as a variable of considerable importance to the longevity and success of any building with concrete.
The future of ecology also foreshadows the importance of grasping concrete moisture content principles. When considering the world’s ongoing conversion to eco-friendly building products, designers need an even more heightened and developed sense of how moisture content interacts between those materials: concrete, finishes, admixtures and sealers. Those concerns are the domains of contractors and installers, but toxic combinations of incompatible building materials become an architectural domain as well.
Architects the world over are in a unique position to conceive moisture content as an integral concept for beautiful and durable concrete structures. A concrete moisture meter may be a moisture measurement tool, but buildings are designs tooled by architectural knowledge.