|Born||April 26, 1842|
|Died||March 7, 1921(aged 78)|
François Hennebique (26 April 1842 – 7 March 1921) was a French engineer and self-educated builder who patented his pioneering reinforced-concrete construction system in 1892, integrating separate elements of construction, such as the column and the beam, into a single monolithic element. The Hennebique system was one of the first appearances of the modern reinforced-concrete method of construction.
Hennebique had first worked as a stonemason, later becoming a builder, with a particular interest in restoration of old churches. Hennebique's Béton Armé system started out by using concrete as a fireproof protection for wrought iron beams, on a house project in Belgium in 1879. He realised however, that the floor system would be more economic if the iron were used only where the slab was in tension, relying on the concrete in the compression areas. His solution was reinforced concrete – a concrete slab with steel bars in its bottom face.
His business developed rapidly, expanding from five employees in Brussels in 1896, to twenty-five two years later when he moved to Paris. In addition, he had a rapidly expanding network of firms acting as agents for his system. These included L.G. Mouchel and F.A. Macdonald & Partners in Britain, and Eduard Zublin in Germany. He was asked in 1896 by Hector Guimard for the terrace of the armory Coutolleau in Angers.
The first building erected using this system was the 1897 Weaver Building in what was then the Docks area of Swansea, but it was demolished in 1984 when the docks were redeveloped to make way for the Maritime Quarter development. A column from the fifth floor of the original building was preserved by the Science Museum, with another piece going to Amberley Museum. Another fragment lies by the side of the river Tawe, where a plaque commemorates Hennebique and his achievement. Between 1892 and 1902, over 7,000 structures were built using the Hennebique system, including buildings, water towers and bridges. Most of these were by other firms licensing the technology, although Hennebique designed some structures himself, including the 1899 bridge at Châtellerault (pictured).
- McBeth, Douglas: "Francois Hennebique (1842–1921) – Reinforced concrete pioneer", Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers, 1998
- McBeth, op.cit.
- Billington, David P.: "The Tower and the Bridge", Princeton University Press, 1983