Technology Snapshot & Benefits:
When it comes to a dependable green building material, concrete
ranks near the top. Considering the life cycle of concrete, its
emerging status as a sustainable building material is justified.
Concrete is made predominantly from limestone, one of Earth’s most
abundant resources. It can even be made from waste byproducts.
Concrete’s durability is the mainstay of its tough reputation.
According to ConcreteNetwork.com, “Life spans for concrete building
products can be double or triple those of other common building
Homes built with concrete foundations, walls and/or floors
resourcefully absorb and retain heat because of concrete’s inherent
thermal mass capabilities. This equals energy efficiency for the
homeowner by lowering heating and cooling costs. Concrete also offers
reduced noise levels compared to wood-framed walls, and a multitude of
design possibilities exist. According to the Portland Cement
Association (PCA), many techniques are available when designing a home,
including insulating concrete forms (ICFs); concrete masonry; aerated
concrete; tilt-up concrete; and precast concrete. Solid, continuous and
airtight forms used in concrete homes provide excellent insulation. A
wide range of insulation choices are available depending on the
concrete construction materials and technique used. Concrete is a
moldable material that accepts environmentally friendly applications of
color. The PCA maintains that “with volatile wood prices, logging's
high environmental price tag, and a growing shortage of high-quality
lumber, concrete offers … cost effective, quality alternatives to
wood-frame home construction.”
Commercially, concrete can minimize urban heat islands.
Light-colored concrete roofs and pavements absorb less heat and reflect
solar radiation. Concrete can be produced in various quantities,
promoting efficiency in that only enough is made for a specific
project. When a concrete structure is no longer needed, the concrete
can be crushed and recycled into aggregate for use in new concrete
pavements or as backfill or road base (The Concrete Network).
Estimated Cost Savings:
When life cycle costs, operation and maintenance costs, and
health issues are factored into home building, concrete shines as a
star material. Walls using ICFs save on heating and cooling bills.
Savings are also reaped from purchasing smaller heating, ventilation
and air conditioning (HVAC) units. Using concrete for driveways and
roofing tiles saves money in the long run because of concrete’s low
maintenance costs and lengthier life span. Additionally, a concrete
foundation can also serve as decorative flooring. All these cost
advantages can help with a home’s resale, too.
Concrete foundations have been known to shift, sink, settle
and/or crack. Improper maintenance, expansive clay or improperly
compacted soil can cause foundation settlement and movement. While
unstable soils can cause upheaval in both slab and pier and beam
foundations, movements within different parts of a concrete slab can
cause cracks or even potential damage to the structure. Accidents and
lower real estate value, as well as poor drainage and equipment
malfunctions, may result from a concrete slab shifting. When this
occurs, call a concrete floor and foundation repair contactor who
provides some form of underpinning as one of their services to repair a
failed foundation. A professional is required to accurately assess the
property and damage then determine the correct method of repair.
Concrete is resistant to weather extremes, such as tornado-force
winds, and to mold, insect damage and fire. According to the California
Energy Commission, most new homes in California are constructed on a
concrete slab. Homes in warm and cold climates both benefit from
concrete’s use of thermal mass, or the collecting and storing of
radiant energy. In cooler weather during daylight, the concrete absorbs
direct sunlight if windows are thoughtfully oriented. When temperatures
fall at night, the stored heat releases and warms rooms. In colder
climates, this passive solar heating method may need to be supplemented
by radiant in-floor heating systems. In humid climates, concrete homes
can resist rot, mold and termite infestation.
Concrete is versatile enough to fit any style of home or
neighborhood and can be covered in siding, stucco, brick, or stone.
Whether modern to traditional in design, concrete homes provide more
energy efficiency than wood-framed homes while still meshing with the
look or character of an area. Fiber cement siding, which has existed
for decades, is composed of cement, sand and cellulose fiber and is
similar in performance to stucco in that it’s weather and insect
resistant; but fiber cement siding can look like traditional wood
clapboard siding. (Please view “Fiber Cement Siding” from Ask a
Builder.) These varied options are gaining in popularity for home
exteriors across the United States.
It is important to find an installer that is right for your
project and choice of technique. For example, the Insulating Concrete
Form Association (ICFA) provides “a database of distributors and
manufacturers of ICFs, experienced ICF contractors, ready-mix
producers, designers, and even mortgage lenders that offer reduced
interest rates for energy-efficient homes (http://www.forms.org/ ).”
United States and Canadian concrete home construction contractors are
listed here on The Concrete Network website.
More Information On This Topic:
The Concrete Network
Portland Cement Association (PCA)
Insulating Concrete Form Association (ICFA)
Environmental Council of Concrete Organizations (ECCO)
“Ask the Builder” by Nationally Syndicated Newspaper Columnist Tim Carter - “Fiber Cement Siding – It’s a Serious Contender!”