How to Spread the Word
In order to effectively promote concrete homebuilding, it's necessary to have an understanding of the many advantages of a concrete house. It's well documented that concrete walls can increase the energy efficiency of a home. Some studies have shown that a structure with concrete and foam walls can reduce heating and cooling bills significantly. Using structural concrete and foam floor systems, upgraded attic insulation, and energy-efficient doors and windows can enhance this effect. The energy efficiency of a concrete home often means that HVAC systems can be downsized. A number of software programs are available to assist HVAC contractors with properly sizing equipment to take this into account.
Concrete products also provide superior resistance to natural disasters. Concrete wall and roof systems have performed well in high-wind areas, particularly in coastal regions vulnerable to hurricanes. A home with an exterior concrete finish and concrete roof tiles also can enhance protection from wildfires. Finally, the lifelong energy savings of a concrete home during its occupancy, and the fact that the home will remaining standing for generations, justifies including concrete walls and floors as part of a sustainable or green development project.
It's not just concrete wall and flooring systems that are seeing a dramatic increase in residential usage. The popularity of decorative concrete floors and flatwork 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 huge variety of patterns and textures. Concrete can be made to look like other materials, such as brick, stone, or slate-in many cases with reduced long-term maintenance costs and with a higher degree of durability. Existing concrete can be polished, stained, or dyed, or covered with a microtopping or stamped overlay.
The durability and low maintenance of fiber-cement siding has led many builders to specify it for their home projects. Concrete roof tiles, with their durability and lower heat reflectivity, 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.
Available products and tools
Many concrete builders, distributors, and promoters may not be aware of the wide array of promotional tools available to them from PCA and other sources. Here's a brief recap of some of these products, and suggestions on how to use them.
HVAC Sizing for Concrete Homes (Version 3.0). The latest version of this HVAC sizing software has all the features of the original, and adds new concrete wall systems and new Canadian and Mexican climate locations. Developed as part of a HUD-sponsored project, the software calculates the system capacities based on the house dimensions, construction materials, location in North America, and thermostat set point. The program will determine an estimate of annual electricity and natural gas consumption. The software is based on the U.S. DOE 2.1E calculation engine and the latest American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers' standards and requirements. A recent version of Microsoft Excel for Windows (1997 or higher) is required.
Do-It-Yourself Ad Zone. This innovative Web site from PCA enables concrete promoters, home builders, or contractors to create customized print ads, brochures, event postcards, and e-mail newsletters for use in promoting residential concrete products to both consumer and nonconsumer audiences. The vendor, Redleaf Digital, can act as a print fulfillment source and ship the completed items directly to you, or to a mailing list that you provide them. There is no fee to register and use this dynamic new service. All fees are charged on a "pay as you go" system, whether you are creating a PDF file to take to your own printer or using Redleaf as your print provider. Visit www.cement.org/homes/diy.
Residential Concrete Media Relations Guide. This revised guide includes tips and guidelines for media interviews, putting together press kits, working with vendors, and hosting media events. A resources section contains information on other organizations that can assist you with your media relations and public affairs activities, and a sampling of product backgrounders and question-and-answer sections on various residential concrete products. More than 35 samples of news releases, media alerts, and other sample materials are included. The guide is available through the bookstore at www.cement.org.
ConcreteThinker.com. Designed by PCA, this informative Web site assists design professionals with making sustainable design a reality through the durability, versatility, and energy performance of concrete. Through application overviews, case studies, and other resources and tools, visitors can learn how to rely on concrete to create sustainable solutions. This site gives you, the concrete homebuilder or contractor, excellent information that you can use to convey to your customers just how truly green a concrete home can be. Visit www.concretethinker.com.
— Jim Neihoff is the director of residential programs at the Portland Cement Association, Skokie, Ill. He can be contacted at 847-972-910 firstname.lastname@example.org