Concrete producers can be proud that this year's unveiling of The New American Home reveals more than just a recently constructed display house. In fact, the official show home of National Association of Home Builders' (NAHB) 2007 International Building Show proves that concrete homes can be trendy.

Described as a “contemporary Craftsman” style bungalow in Lake Eola Heights, Orlando, Fla., the house embodies many definitions of new: innovative, ground-breaking, and state-of-the-art.

The NAHB and BUILDER magazine, a sister publication of THE CONCRETE PRODUCER, with support from others, including, the Portland Cement Association and Pre-cast/Prestressed Concrete Institute, co-sponsor this real-world laboratory for builders and architects each year. To qualify, the home's design must push the boundaries of cutting-edge concepts, including materials, designs, and construction techniques. Yet the home builder must also be able construct and market it effectively.

It's a sign of the times that the project team relied so heavily on all of concrete's best design attributes.

In a collaborative effort, architect Bloodgood Sharp Buster of Des Moines, Iowa, builder Homes by Carmen Dominguez of Orlando, Fla., and interior designer Robb & Stucky Interiors, Altamonte Springs, Fla., started from the bottom. They maximized the livable space, despite the bungalow's small footprint, by using precast concrete walls, provided by Standard Precast. They used the strength of exterior precast walls to support an 8-inch central spine on the ground floor.

Taking full advantage of the support offered by structural concrete elements, designers used 6-inch-thick, hollow-core pre-cast panels from Gate Precast for each floor. This reduced the thickness of traditional wood-framed flooring by almost half. With the structure taking less vertical space, the design team was able to create more living room: a full, three-story home within the neighborhood's 30-foot, single-family home height restriction. The ceilings are progressively higher on each floor, crowning in a 10-foot-high, loft-like third level.

Cleaning the air

Outside, the home's cladding matches its more traditional neighbors. But architects put a modern environmental twist on the stucco and clapboard siding typical of southern bungalows: The house could actually help reduce pollution while staying clean.

The project team used TX Aria photocatalytic stucco cement from Essroc Italcementi Group. This new product neutralizes pollutants such as sulfur and nitrogen oxides through a special chemical process. The stucco's integral color reduces the need for periodic repainting.

Interior designers demonstrated concrete's versatility. They achieved a modern interpretation of the Arts & Crafts style by highlighting building materials with a colored acid wash on exposed interior concrete walls. When the colored surfaces were combined with natural light from the large windows and open floor plans, this concrete home became homey and exciting.

The concrete construction also provides practical benefits. The design includes a shallow basement and built-in wine storage area, in contrast to the small crawl spaces typically dictated by the area's water table limitations.

Keeping safety in mind, concrete withstands Florida's humidity, termites, hurricanes, and other extreme conditions. “This house is an absolute bomb shelter,” says Maylen Dominguez Arlen, director of development for Homes by Carmen Dominguez.

The concrete's thermal mass also helps the house stay cooler than wood-frame homes. As with any cutting-edge construction, The New American Home was built with the environment in mind. Each design element improves the home's overall performance, and concrete contributed specifically to the home's energy efficiency, reduced material use, and durability.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, it uses 73% less energy for heating and cooling than a similar home. It is also Energy Star rated and certified “green” by the Florida Green Building Coalition, an organization dedicated to eco-friendly construction practices.

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