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Concrete Homes – It’s not a Question of If – but a Question of When

As the most innovative and progressive poured wall contractors in the US and Canada, the members of the CFA have always thought in what ways they can expand and make their companies more successful. This success has normally occurred through the training and retention of personnel and acquisition of additional equipment. Now that the economy is slowing, what is the next logical step to continue this growth? The answer is concrete homes. The next generation of aluminum forming systems is now allowing contractors of build energy efficient all-concrete homes competitively priced with standard wood-frame construction.

Concrete is being used more for the building of homes in the United States. It’s happening because homeowners are become more sensitive to environmental issues, are concerned with the increased cost and scarcity of energy, and because they want their homes to be “peaceful and quiet” – especially when they’re located in the center of urban areas. The awareness of these benefits of concrete homes is due in part to the Portland Cement Association’s promotional efforts and these efforts are working. “Public awareness of concrete homes is now at an all time high,” says Mike Weber from the Portland Cement Association (PCA). “22% of the people in the US said they were aware of the concrete homes in 1998. In 2000, the percentage has grown 41%.” He also estimates that over 15,000 concrete homes were built in the US in 1999.

Just a year ago, the PCA mainly promoted insulated concrete forms and concrete masonry unit as the method of choice in the construction of concrete homes. This is changing; in an effort of cooperation the PCA and CFA have produced a new brochure promoting the benefits of above grade concrete homes using removable forming systems.

What is the next stop in the promotional effort? Besides the CFA’s creation of the Concrete Homes Council, we may not have to look any further than the US Government. In the last few years, energy and natural disasters have been high priority. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), through its Project Impact program, is interested in all-concrete homes. FEMA is taking a proactive position about structures in potential disaster areas. They plan to spend more money promoting the construction of building that remain intact for reconstruction of destroyed buildings afterward.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s Star Program is an effort to reduce the green house effect by reducing the consumption of fuel. This program motivates builders to build homes that are 30% more energy efficient. Star Homes have lower closing costs. It also allows the borrower a stretch in their income-to-debt ratio at mortgage time. This qualifies more potential buyers for the builder.

The Department of Energy’s Building Thermal Envelope Systems and Materials Program, in an effort to reduce energy consumptions, is devoting research time to developing technologies that improve the energy efficiency and environmental compatibility of residential and commercial buildings. This focuses on the structural elements that enclose a building (wall, roofs and foundations). The building envelope provides the thermal barrier between the indoor and outdoor environment, and its elements are the key determinants of a building’s energy requirements.

Finally, Housing and Urban Development has established The Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing (PATH). This is a voluntary initiative that seeks to accelerate the creation and widespread use of advanced technologies to radically improve the quality, durability, environmental performance, energy efficiency, and affordability of our nation’s housing. Removable forms for concrete housing have recently been accepted as a PATH technology.

If now is the time you are thinking of which way you will continue to grow your company, concrete housing should be high on you priority list. In the near future, look for bills in Congress for builder tax credits and incentives to build more energy efficient and disaster resistant homes. Concrete Housing – It’s not a Question of If – But a Question of When, and it might be here sooner than you think.

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Concrete FACTS, a publication of the Concrete Foundations Association, is THE voice for residential concrete industry news, market intelligence, business strategies, technical solutions, product information, and other resources for professionals in the cast-in-place concrete industry. Subscriptions to Concrete FACTS is available to anyone involved or interested in the residential concrete industry as a service to your industry. Please contact CFA Headquarters to find out more about your free subscription or Email Us