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Concrete Home Design: Solid As Ever

Gone are the days of over-engineered and overbuilt concrete homes that were a chore to construct and even more difficult to sell. Today’s concrete residential designs, in particular those for homes constructed with Removable Concrete Forms (RCFs), not only offer homeowners a rock-solid, weather resistant and energy efficient investment, these fresh designs yield must-have residences with up-to-date features and amenities.

David Davenport, of Davenport Architecture + Design, Inc., is a Cary, NC-based architect—and Concrete Homes Council member—whose designs generate homes of breathtaking beauty, function and resiliency. He finds the work challenging and rewarding. “It’s great to work with top-notch professionals and build a structure that we know will perform as it should.” Naturally, he’s referring to concrete’s inherent virtues: quiet, environmentally friendly and strong enough to handle harsh coastal elements.

Reviewing Davenport’s concrete home portfolio, we cannot help but be in awe. First, we have The Chateau (pictured at left), an amazing concrete estate home in The Hills of Rosemont, an exclusive neighborhood in Chatham County, NC. A Gold Award-winner and recipient of “The Best of The Best” in the Home Builders Associations of Durham, Orange & Chatham Counties’ 2005 Parade of Homes, this 8,197 square-foot five bedroom residence has a gourmet kitchen and butler’s pantry, exercise and recreation rooms and a four-car garage. Concrete has been utilized for flooring, countertops in a bathroom and laundry room, pool deck, driveway and sidewalks. Adjacent to the Old Chatham golf course (designed by Rees Jones) this two-story home with spectacular views is on the market for $2,250,000.00.

Heading east a bit to Cary, we can view Davenport’s La Maison Be’ton (pictured on next page), a 10,000 square-foot home built entirely of concrete. This manor-like residence features a gourmet kitchen with concrete countertops, wine cellar and tasting room, home theater, covered terrace and picturesque landscaping. Concrete was also used for countertops in bathrooms, floors, decks, driveway and sidewalks. The home, with a blend of traditional and contemporary French interiors, is located in Birklands, one of the area’s premier neighborhoods, and garnered a Gold Award in the Home Builders Associations of Raleigh-Wake County’s 2003 Parade of Homes. Jon Rufty of Rufty Homes, Inc., constructed both of these magnificent homes ( and Tri-City Contractors was the concrete contractor on both projects.

Currently, Davenport is actively involved with the design and construction of three more impressive concrete homes in North Carolina. The first is an 8,000+ square-foot custom residence in The Hills of Rosemont. This classically designed custom home, sited on a gracious, secluded ten-acre lot, is at the foundation stage of construction (as of this story) and is slated for completion in 2007. Built for an automobile aficionado who cherishes familial privacy, the home has, among other state-of-the-art amenities, a media room, a luxurious master suite and bath, complete with a Japanese soaking tub and, of course, ample space to house his cars. The builder is once again Jon Rufty, Rufty Homes, Inc. working with Tri-City Contractors. Judy Pickett, ASID, of Design Lines, Ltd, of Raleigh, is handling the interiors of this stellar residence.

And if you think that Davenport only designs large homes, think again. He is also busy these days with a 3,600 square-foot beach home overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, shown at left. The four-story speculative home is being built for Ocean City Ventures, a development company out of North Topsail Beach, NC, and represents the best there is in coastal vernacular design. The property includes a concrete tower pre-dating World War II, originally used by the U.S. Defense Department to observe missile testing over the Atlantic Ocean. During the war, the tower served as a lookout post by the military to monitor the Atlantic for German U-boats. The final phase of the project is to convert the tower into a bathhouse for the home’s outdoor pool and sun deck. Like any concrete home built to withstand coastal weather, this house will be loaded with high performance features, such as Andersen hurricane-resistant windows and doors and high-wind construction detailing.

In the near future, Davenport will begin a Mediterranean-style villa on a two-acre site in North Topsail. The permanent custom residence will have seven bedrooms, an exercise studio and lap pool, a movie theater, a pool hall, separate guest accommodations, an interior courtyard and a six-car garage. Working closely with the family throughout the design process, Davenport’s goal is to create a home that can be handed down to generations to come. When the project begins, Security Building Group, of Sneads Ferry, NC, will handle the RCF construction of the exterior walls, floors and ceilings, while Maebuilt Construction, of Surf City, NC, will serve as the contractor of record.

Today’s homeowners want spaces that capture their emotions, homes that are not just well sited and serviceable but beautiful inside and out. Only recently have concrete homebuilders been able to deliver such an all-inclusive package. Davenport explains that trial and error coupled with engineering advances have enabled the industry to go from structurally sound yet aesthetically lacking homes, to homes of impeccable beauty, quality and strength. “We’re learning how to deal with flashings, elevations, slabs, overhangs and balances while using a lighter touch,” he explains. “And it helps that we’re working in tandem with an excellent engineer who knows how to be very efficient with concrete.” Davenport is referring to Ken Theisen of Engineering Tech, P.A. of Raleigh, NC.

Theisen’s expertise comes from successful structural designs of nuclear power plant components, hotels and limited service motels, churches, educational and medical facilities, and large single-family and multi-family dwellings. Many of these buildings required Theisen to engineer and design foundation and retaining walls, yet his work also includes extensive experience engineering insulated concrete homes and all concrete homes, both inland and along the coast.

Davenport draws parallels between the evolution of engineering and designing concrete homes and the automobile. “Originally automobiles were constructed to be very heavy so they would be safe. Over time, automobiles have evolved into something lighter yet even safer than before.” He says the same is true with concrete homes. “We had areas in some of our first concrete homes that were heavy and over-engineered, especially slabs and overhangs. Now we engineer these features, and many other aspects of the home, so they are structurally lighter and visually appealing, yet still extremely strong.”

In addition to collaborating with a knowledgeable engineer, Davenport has taken his design work to the third dimension. He employs the latest technology available to architects utilizing a software program called SketchUp Pro. Developed to combine the elegance and spontaneity of pencil sketching with the speed and flexibility of today’s digital media, SketchUp allows the architect to create, view and modify three-dimensional ideas quickly and easily (

Everyone seems to profit from doing more with less. Of course, builders have always appreciated concrete’s strength and resilience. But now they are discovering that this time-honored material allows them the same flexibility and appearance they can get with stick construction. In addition to the first-class homes they can produce, today’s sleeker designs require less concrete, passing on to builders reduced construction costs, and consequently, greater profit margins. This rewarding collaboration between architect, engineer and builder ensures an end product that any concrete construction professional would gladly add to his or her portfolio.

Solid architectural design—it’s the foundation of concrete home construction. To discover more about the adventure of concrete home construction and how it can impact your business, contact a member of the Concrete Homes Council today.

by Wendy Shannon and Libbie Hough, Op5 Creative, Atlanta, Georgia.

MacGregor Village, 107 Edinburgh South #201
Cary, NC 27511
P: 919.388.9321
F: 919.388.9322

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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