“Fire in the hole,” said our guide into his two-way radio—and a huge section of rock exploded into a cloud of dust and flying boulders. From our vantage point 500 yards away, we felt the concussion jolt our bus. No, this wasn't Iraq, but a Kansas City rock quarry—the first stop on the Concrete Home Builders Council tour. Soon we visited a cement plant, a ready-mix plant, a concrete block maker, a plant making insulating concrete forms, and an aluminum removable forms manufacturer. Now that we knew the basics, we were ready to see an ICF home under construction and finally a completed concrete home built using removable forms. The 100 tour participants—developers, builders, architects—were tired but full of enthusiasm for concrete homes.
The concrete industry is like a many-headed monster—post-tensioning, concrete paving, high-rise construction—each head takes its turn to roar to life. Over the past few years, we've seen decorative concrete gain popularity and press coverage: Vanity Fair, no less, reports that Martha Stewart's horse barn has a stamped concrete floor. And now we are witnessing the emergence of residential concrete as the new darling of the construction industry. Finally!
Evidence of this growing interest in concrete home construction is everywhere, and every time another hurricane hits Florida, concrete homes look better. In September we will publish the fifth issue of Residential Concrete, now a stand-alone magazine about to go to six issues a year. If you haven't been receiving RC and would like a copy, let me know. Residential Concrete is now the official publication of the CHBC, which is a part of the National Association of Home Builders. When NAHB recognizes the importance of concrete homes, you know we are on the way. Only a few years ago, when I told the editors of our residential construction magazines about concrete homes, they treated me like an eccentric uncle, patiently listening to my silly diatribe about the advantages of concrete for home construction while in their mind's eye they were not seeing a bright new concrete home but a basement or a strange concrete dome where the local old hippie lives.
I won't subject you to the standard arguments about why concrete homes are so wonderful. I assume that the readers of this magazine know concrete's great strengths—both literal and figurative. But I encourage you to become an ambassador for concrete, doing what you can to get the word out. As I've often noted, applications like above-grade concrete walls and integrally colored driveways aren't likely to become the predominant uses of concrete, but they change the public's perception of what concrete is. And improving our image can be only a good thing for all of us as we try to expand the use of concrete around the world for all of this monster's many heads.
William D. Palmer Jr., Editor in Chief