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From very early times, man began building protective structures made from mud, wood, and stone. The discovery of bronze and iron allowed the development of better building methods, eventually leading to the construction of settlements, villages, and then cities as people discovered the need for more community-oriented gathering places.
The Egyptians primarily used stone in their construction processes, which necessitated the use of creative methods of moving large and heavy building materials. The first building code, known as the Code of Hammurabi, was recorded in 1792-1750 B.C. and laid out specific standards for builders which were to be strictly followed under possible penalty of death. Greek master builders were beginning to construct temples out of marble and limestone and started to organize groups of stonemasons who were specifically skilled. This is historically significant as it was the first time in known history that workmen were sorted into a particular construction craft, eventually leading to the development of building trades. The Romans were responsible for many turning points in the history of construction, including the invention of an early form of concrete, the development of domes and arches, the first use of glass in construction, and construction of early roads. The downfall of the Roman Empire led to a stagnant period in construction, but eventually the Roman Catholic Church began building stone cathedrals throughout Europe starting in 900 A.D. Craft guilds began to spring up, offering training in specific trades and recognizing masters, journeyman, and apprentices.
The Industrial Revolution paved the way for the modern construction industry and lead to further separation of the facets of construction into architecture, engineering, and building crafts. Cast iron and wrought iron began to be widely used, especially in the construction of bridges and railways. Steel and electricity production during the late 1800s led to the first skyscrapers and many large organizations began forming and taking on housing, transportation, and city development projects. A construction boom occurred after World War II when the demand for housing and infrastructure rose sharply. Building codes and standards were established to regulate quality control and colleges and universities began to offer degrees related to construction.
Today, there are almost 100 four year colleges and universities offering courses in construction management related to residential building, commercial building, highway construction, and industrial construction. The modern construction industry employed over 20 million people in the U.S. in 2012 and accounts for nine percent of our gross domestic product, making it a vital and necessary industry that will always be around despite economic downturns.
Construction-related organizations include the Associated General Contractors of America as well as other, more specialized or localized, organizations.
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