Here at Fontan Architecture we have built a few concrete houses. In this article we will discuss why we have built concrete homes and a few advantages to owning a concrete house.
Durability has to be the number one advantage to a concrete home. We have built a few in New York and started doing so after Super Storm Sandy. Hundreds of homes were destroyed by the storm and we got involved building concrete houses to replace them. Of course you can build a concrete house anywhere but we found that in a flood zone, hurricane zone. or other high risk areas concrete homes can be a great solution.
Advantages of Concrete Houses
Disaster Proof – In case of a flood or hurricane a reinforced concrete house will have a far greater structural value. Concrete can take a beating and survive extreme weather and disasters far better than most houses would.
Durable – Concrete when done right is a highly durable material. Concrete houses are built to last.
Energy Efficient – Building a concrete house is not inherently energy efficient but when done right it can be extremely efficient and sustainable.
Fireproof Construction – Concrete is a noncombustible material. This means you do not have to worry about fire like you would in a wood framed house.
Material Flexibility – Concrete is poured into forms. It can literally be made into any shape, size, or pattern you like. The image of a yellow house is a concrete house and no that isn’t siding over a concrete wall that is a concrete wall. This house was built in Breezy Point, NY. Almost all of the houses there have siding. This house was built with wood slats in the form work so that the actual concrete would take the shape of siding. The window trim, eaves, gutters are all concrete.
Insulating a Concrete House
I was once on a construction site for a concrete house we were building and 2 guys walk down the street. I heard one guy say to the next guy “that’s so stupid you can’t insulate a concrete house.” Well I have to tell you that is just wrong. There are actually many different ways to insulate a concrete house and in fact a concrete house when designed and built properly can easily outperform a typical house with regards to insulation, temperature control, and sustainability.
The Detail drawing shows a wall section of a concrete house we are going to build in Far Rockaway, NY. In this particular house the client wants concrete on the inside and on the outside. You will notice a pink ribbon in the drawing that is continuous rigid insulation that separates the exterior concrete from the interior concrete. So in the winter the interior concrete is warm and stays warm and the exterior concrete is cold and does not touch the interior structure. There are many other techniques for insulating concrete homes this is just one, we wont get into detail on all of them, but here are a few methods.
Separate interior and exterior concrete with insulation. This allows for concrete on interior and exterior walls as shown in the detail drawing.
Use ICF – Insulated Concrete Forms. These are concrete in the middle of your wall with insulation on the inside and outside. The interior walls are Sheetrock and the exterior walls required a finish material. This house does not have exposed concrete you will never see the concrete in this type of house. This house can have an exposed concrete exterior and exposed concrete interior if you like.
Use EIFS – Exterior Insulation and Finish System. You can build a concrete wall with concrete on the inside. You put insulation on the outside face and them put a finish material over the insulation. Typical construction types are stucco exterior or rain screen construction with siding or panels. This house can have an exposed concrete interior.
Build a box in a box. We do this on most of our concrete houses. The house is built as a concrete box with an insulated box on the inside. This house can have an exposed concrete exterior.
In warm climates this is obviously a lesser concern. Concrete houses are actually more popular in warm climates because they tend to keep the house relatively cool with little to no insulation. They can also be built in very cold climates with the proper insulation and air sealing design.
If you choose to build with exposed concrete you can always cover the material or disguise it as another material. Many people do not like the look of raw concrete. in the 1950s, 60s and 70s buildings with exposed concrete became popular and these buildings were often referred to as Brutalist Architecture. Although some people, such as myself, liked Brutalism many did not. As a material concrete can be used to achieve lots of different looks. It can be rough, smooth, polished, you can even mimic other materials as we have shown above with the poured in place concrete siding. Below is a photo of a showroom I worked on a few years ago with a polished concrete floor.
Poured In Place Concrete
Below is a picture of poured in place concrete walls in a concrete house we did in Breezy Point, NY. This concrete is not polished you will see a distinct difference between this and the photo above of the polished floor.
Concrete House Design Aesthetics
You may or may not like the look of a concrete house. You can always build it to look like a more traditional house as we have shown. Or if you like the look you can make a modern concrete home like the one below. We hope to start construction on this one in early 2017. We will post updates on this as it progresses. The house is elevated on concrete columns because it is in the flood zone. This house will have a concrete exterior and interior. As well as a roof deck, with a small green roof, solar panels and rain water collecting / recycling.