Green construction has several important elements. While many producers have focused on concrete's potential attributes regarding reusing materials and energy savings, concrete construction also offers architects and builders another tool.

Concrete, especially precast, offers designers solutions to many tough structural problems. And this attribute can allow builders to use concrete innovatively to meet an important criteria of sustainable construction—the effective use of land. As zoning jurisdictions adopt tougher restrictions for occupancy per square foot, architects turn to concrete.

A prime example of using concrete to solve a land space issue was completed earlier this year when Lewie Bloom finished one of his magnificent new dream homes in a refurbished area about 15 minutes from Bethesda, Md. The area features many multi-million-dollar riverfront homes. The location is so desirable, developers had started converting old, smaller homes in this suburban area into new, larger homes in the same space.

Height requirement

Spurred by the local outcry, officials had placed a moratorium on all new large home construction. After some negotiations, the officials reduced the height restrictions from 35 to 30 feet and imposed new building restrictions. These new rules made it almost impossible for builders to achieve ceiling heights in new construction any higher than 8 feet when using the typical 16-inch-deep wood beams for the flooring.

Searching for a way to beat the restriction, Bloom turned to Robert Gurney, an architect known worldwide for his trademark, unique designs of elite, luxury homes that include cutting-edge technology, and state-of-the-art construction techniques. Gurney designed the home with high ceilings to communicate an upscale, contemporary, open, airy space.

With the building restrictions, Bloom, a well-known, Baltimore-area contractor, started thinking about how he could still achieve his desired 9-foot-high ceilings he wanted in his prestigious new home overlooking the Potomac River.

Bloom turned to concrete and asked John M. Jones, Nitterhouse Concrete's vice president of engineering, for help. Jones' team eventually designed a precast concrete sub-flooring system, including an area with solid plank designed to support a 500,000-pound cantilevered swimming pool in mid-air overlooking the river.

Along with the ability to meet the height restrictions, the owner/contractor discovered that the concrete flooring system was economical. Bloom compared the total costs of other flooring systems (including labor, carpenters, material, and equipment) to the ConCoreFloor System for his $3 million to $5 million residential project. He found the precast system was less expensive.

“This incredible new hollow-core flooring system will revolutionize residential housing construction,” says Bloom. “Other builders in this area are coming by the project and asking how I was able to get the high ceilings. This project is getting lots of high praises from other builders.”