Are Your Home Plans Set in Concrete?
What's guaranteed to produce ultra-low heating and cooling bills, stand up to
tornadoes and the worst punishment that mother nature can inflict, and turn
any construction engineer green with envy? A concrete home, of course. No,
it's not exactly the same design as an office skyscraper. But certain
pioneering homebuilders are experimenting in alternative construction
materials, including straw, steel, and now, concrete. Concrete is rising in
popularity, so much so that experts predict that 15 to 25 percent of all
homes could be made of concrete in five years.
In fact, it's a highway construction engineer turned homebuilder who's
pioneering concrete homes in Kansas. Kathy Deitering of Koncrete Dimensions
came up with a system of interlocking Styrofoam-frame blocks as forms for
pouring concrete in the outside walls of the house. If you're thinking that
one of these homes resembles a highway overpass, think again. The outside of
the house is anything but concrete. In fact, exterior siding, brick or vinyl,
can be installed over the outer facing. Plumbing and electrical lines are
routed by cutting holes in the Styrofoam blocks. Add siding to the outside,
and cover the interior with wallboard, and voila. From there on the interior
walls, floors and roof are added using standard construction and finishing
Why turn to concrete? Superior insulating characteristics are one reason. A
concrete wall design translates to R-52 insulation rating, and that's as high
or higher than any homebuilder can offer. Heat transfer is held to a
minimum, and that means warmer floors in the winter and cooler rooms upstairs
in the summer. The temperature change from the downstairs to the upstairs
can be as low as one degree Fahrenheit.
Energy efficiency results in major annual savings, enough that lenders may
look more favorably on loans for concrete homes because they know the
borrower will spend comparatively less on energy bills, freeing up more
income for the mortgage bill. Insurance providers, especially in tornado or
hurricane prone areas, may adjust premiums downward for these heavy-duty
construction homes. Concrete's noise insulation values stack up against any
other construction material. Its sound deadening effect will prevent outside
noise from getting in, and who wants to hear planes or traffic noise while
trying to sleep?
What are the disadvantages of concrete construction? It's more difficult to
install extra electrical outlets after the home is built, and the
construction cost is anywhere from 4 to 6 percent higher. The cost factor
might be mitigated, however, by energy savings and lower insurance premiums,
but even more by the price and shortage of quality wood.
Sources used to create this article include Kenneth Lassiter and the Topeka