It is everywhere. It holds us up. It surrounds us. It is concrete. But before it becomes as hard as rock it's actually not that tough.
"People don't realize that it's a very perishable item," said Michael Cassatto, chief concrete production manager for Quadrozzi Concrete, one of several companies supplying materials to the new World Trade Center.
The concrete being used for the construction of One World Trade Center and the other skyscrapers being built at the site is some of the strongest and most complex ever created.
"The challenges that it poses because the level of quality control is unlike any building has had before," said John Quadrozzi Jr., president of Quadrozzi Concrete. "Every detail is scrutinized and checked. And in a sense we think it's a good thing because we've always promoted quality control on buildings and proper building technique."
One World Trade Center will eventually be 3 million square feet of office space and public space. At the core, a 3-foot thick steel-reinforced, concrete wall will encase the elevators and stairwells. Owned by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the building's design means increased safety and exacting quality controls.
Russian-born Mikhail "Misha" Tartakovsky, Quadrozzi’s chief quality control manager, says he welcomes the challenge.
"It is very, very tight quality assurance provided by the Port Authority," Tartakovsky said. "It makes you be always alert, but it is a great experience to be on the job site. We're all proud of it."
The creation of concrete is a precise science. Take for example the microwave sensors that calculate the water in and on the stone and sand in every truck load. Computers take that information and subtract the weight of that water in order to get the exact weight of stone and sand, called aggregate, being used. That aggregate is combined with chemicals, that cement holds the stones and sand together. Then it all goes into the truck.
"The truck is a big mixer," Cassatto said. "It's just blending the materials together. It's like a big mix master on wheels."
Once in the truck, the "90 minute rule" goes into effect. "The 90 minute rule which is the time that the concrete is mixed at a batch plant till it's ultimately dispensed from the truck on the job site," said Quadrozzi.
Longer than that and the concrete can harden and become unusable, a fact Cassatto is keenly aware of.
"Once the materials are combined together the concrete starts its setting process, he said. "It's going to get hard in the truck or out of the truck. It has a short window from when it's in its liquid state until it really begins to set."
The time issue means concrete plants can’t be far from where their product is needed. Quadrozzi’s plant is about 5 miles from the World Trade Center. For historical perspective, consider the Hoover Dam. Concrete plants were built near the site to supply the 6.6 million tons used in the dam’s construction.
"It could be a very tense environment, the timing is very important," Cassatto said. "If the customer needs a load every hour, well we're going to give it to him every hour. If he needs a load of concrete every five minutes, then we'll give it to him every five minutes."
But this intense pressure hasn’t clouded their vision. Quadrozzi is certain his company will never have a more important job. "We see it as a once in a lifetime project," he said. "Now we're rebuilding it and it definitely holds a place in our hearts."
Martin Hinton is Executive Producer for the Fox News Reporting Specials and Documentary Unit as well as Political Insiders. Follow him on Twitter @MartinFHinton.