We see the result of their jobs every day, but only if we're looking.

They're something taken for granted, but for years, their job was an open riddle, hoping to be solved.

What are they? Embeds.

Simple embed drawing

What are Embeds?

Considered the best method, embeds attach concrete to steel framework.

The plates, prefabricated steel with lugs welded to them, are cast inside concrete. Lugs attached to concrete reinforcements held the embed in place. The exposed plate creates the surface connecting steel to concrete.

Hot-rolled steel sections, used in construction, changed the various designs for embeds and anchors. These sections provide changes creating higher tolerances when placing the embeds.

An Important Piece of the Puzzle

Because their delivery is so far in advance, time becomes tight when making sure everything is correct. If there are no complications, the embed process makes the project go much smoother. If not, then your project falls behind because of the time inefficiencies.

Embeds play a large part in a sound anchor system. As such, there's a lot involved when engineering embeds for a project. Specifically, the following are essential considerations when designing embeds:

  • How much of a load imposed on the embed?
  • The strength of the concrete resisting that load
  • The embed design
  • Building materials
  • Labor costs

Connecting embeds to footings or walls occurs in several ways;

  • Precast columns
  • Beams
  • Plant
  • Double tees
  • Slabs
  • Wall panels

Technically, embeds aren't individual components. Instead, they're an important piece of the structural system. How embeds became a critical aspect of construction isn't exactly clear, but their roots reach back over 160 years ago.

  • 1848: Jean-Louis Lambot first used reinforced concrete when building a boat using iron bars and mesh.
  • 1854: A Brit, William B. Wilkinson, made the first building using reinforced concrete of a two-story cottage he built for his servants.
  • 1853: Frenchman François Coignet first used iron reinforced concrete on a widespread scale.

In his 1959 book, Concrete, Peter Collins considered Coignet as an unsung hero of the modern world.

"Coignet can justly be regarded as the man who first brought mass concrete construction to the knowledge of the modern world, and who in his lifetime exploited it to its utmost capacity. His methods were far more scientific than those practiced elsewhere in his day, and although he never undertook laboratory experiments, or attempted to ascertain theoretically the economic dimensions of the material required, he spared no pains in making practical tests."

BN Products created the following timeline showing the history of reinforced concrete. Despite the long history of concrete, the idea of reinforcing it didn't occur until the mid-19th Century.

History Timeline for Reinforced Concrete

Embeds started appearing in construction projects in Boston, Philadelphia, and New York in the 1920s. Their job was simple, provide conduits for cables and wires.

The first conduits were steel, embedded in poured concrete floors with access points for various locations. Once placed, the last step connecting electrical wiring was feeding cables through the tube.

As time passed, embeds provided an attached surface of restraints and supports for electrical raceways and equipment. Before embeds, finding locations for the walls and floors relied on on-site measurements.

"… In previous methods of construction, tape measures, levels, etc. were used to locate the position of the walls and floors to be constructed, and subsequently the equipment, piping, electrical raceways, HVAC; etc. Each of these assembly operations was performed using the stick-build construction method, with thousands of single-component fitting tasks occurring simultaneously in the same physical floor space at various distances above the floor. This meant that mazes of scaffolding were required to access locations above the floor, resulting in a progressively decreasing workspace in which to perform the tasks."

In Sum

Embeds became vital in construction because of the way they connect concrete to steel. There aren't any limits on how embeds are built or used. Because of that variety, there's a lot of engineering and planning behind an embed system.

There are no shortcuts in making embeds; considerations need to be made for loads, concrete strength, design, material costs, etc. Despite the best laid plans, there's always a time crunch before the concrete pour. Any error along the line means delays and unhappy customers.

When considering an embed fabricator, look into their references and capabilities. Doing your homework upfront saves you headaches later.