Floor designs can lay claim to the greatest part of total expenditure in structural engineering. Historically speaking, vaulted structures made from small-format bricks initially dominated early floor construction methods. The flexural strength of timber beams first enabled flat floor structures to be created as opposed to vaults. Wooden beams were then superseded by rolled steel profiles, but nothing was changed in respect of the floor system with its load-bearing main and secondary beams. Along with advancements in developing concrete as a construction material – for the past approximately 160 years up to now, work has been consistently carried on in designing floor systems from a new material – reinforced concrete. To begin with, this was marked by the development of existing floors made out of steel up to the time when the load-bearing effect of reinforced concrete had been recognised and entirely understood. The transition was then made from systems with floor beams to flat floors. Beam systems are ideally suited to prefabrication as the individual beams and the slabs positioned between them can all be precast in a concrete production facility. However, flat floors can also be created nowadays by utilising precast semi-finished components. In this way, flat floors have now also become the dominant floor construction method as opposed to floors with beams. The first part of this paper de-scribes the historical development of floor construction methods.
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