These are exciting times for those of us involved in promoting concrete for residential applications
These are exciting times for those of us involved in promoting concrete for residential applications. Until recently, concrete was either taken for granted or largely ignored for many residential uses.
Many people had the incorrect perception that a concrete home would look like a rectangular, gray bomb shelter.
How a few years can change impressions! Concrete products are making advances in all areas in and around the house. Take concrete homes as an example. A 'concrete home' is defined, by our industry at least, as one where all of the exterior, above-ground structural walls are constructed with a cement-based wall system, such as concrete masonry, insulating concrete forms, reusable concrete forms, or precast concrete panels. From 1999 through 2005, the percentage of homes built with concrete walls increased from 5.9% to 17.9%-a truly staggering increase in market share by any definition.
The difference can't be measured only by numbers, but also by attitudes. At home and garden shows or trade shows the types of questions asked by attendees reflect this change in mindset. Not many years ago, the very idea of building a concrete home drew either blank stares or prompted questions about why anyone would want to do such a thing. Now many show attendees have heard of the concept, understand its benefits, want to know how much it will cost, and where to find the nearest supplier or builder.
What's driving this change? It's a combination of factors: A rise in energy prices, an increased destructiveness of natural disasters, the green building movement, and a consistent promotional campaign by the cement and concrete industries have all played their part. It's well documented that concrete homes can, in many cases, dramatically increase the energy efficiency of a home, stand up more effectively to natural disasters, and provide a comfortable, quiet indoor environment. In addition, the lifelong energy savings of a concrete home during its occupancy and the fact that the home will stand for generations, certainly justifies including concrete walls as part of a sustainable development project.
It's not just concrete wall systems that are seeing a dramatic increase in residential usage. The popularity of decorative concrete for both interior and exterior areas of the home is growing at a tremendous rate. New concrete can be stained, stamped, stenciled, and integrally colored to produce a variety of patterns and textures. Existing concrete can be covered with a microtopping or stamped overlay, or polished. Concrete can be made to look like other materials, such as brick, stone, or slate -in many cases at reduced costs and higher degrees of durability. Concrete countertops, both cast-in-place and precast, offer a unique customized look for kitchens and bathrooms.
The exterior of the home also is opening up to concrete possibilities. The durability and low maintenance of fiber-cement siding has led many builders to specify it for their residential projects. Concrete roof tiles continue to expand their market share as well. Genuine portland-cement stucco and manufactured stone are other examples of cement-based products that provide superior quality as well as pleasing aesthetics for homeowners.
You need look no further than the 2004 formation of NAHB's Concrete Home Building Council to understand the dynamic new role that concrete is playing in residential construction. Simply put, it's not your grandfather's concrete anymore. For more information about residential concrete products, be sure to visit www.concretehomes.com or www.nahb.org/concrete.
--Kate Driscoll is the senior program manager, Concrete Home Building Council, National Association of Home Builders. She can be reached at 800-368-5242 x8362 or firstname.lastname@example.org