Are Concrete Homes Eco-Friendly?

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Traditional European masonry home

Are Concrete Homes Greener?

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something... green perhaps. Over 5,000 years ago, Egyptians used a gypsum based form of concrete to build the Pyramids. For centuries, concrete homes have been commonplace in European and Middle Eastern countries. Yet, historically, these structures have garnered little traction in the US housing market. However, that may all be about to change due to growing environmental concerns. While not for everyone, concrete homes offer many eco-friendly, energy saving benefits.
When concrete homes are built, less trees are harvested which preserve our ecosystem. Trees consume co2 and release oxygen into the air. To be clear, production of concrete releases co2. But, through a property known as re-carbonation, the finished product reabsorbs CO2. This carbon uptake process actually increases your home's air quality. Also, concrete homes are substantially more energy efficient than wood framed homes. These dense, airtight structures maintain a more consistent indoor air temperature. This results in lower energy consumption, a win, win for both homeowners and the environment. Well maintained concrete homes can literally last for centuries; further minimizing natural resource depletion. Once finally reaching the end of its original life cycle, concrete can be recycled for future projects.

Types of Concrete Homes

All concrete homes have similar pros and cons, Yet, there are distinct differences in production methods, customization options and cost. What type is best for you really depends on your individual needs. we'll discuss your options...
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Concrete Block Homes

Concrete block homes are manufactured from precast molds then delivered and assembled on site. These blocks are also known as concrete masonry units (CMU's) or Cinder Blocks. Concrete block homes are more cost effective and are easier to assemble than other methods. They offer affordability, if not necessarily the most versatile option available. While pre-molded blocks are produced in various sizes, they still have design limitations. That said, despite the lack of customization, these homes remain an interesting eco-friendly home option.
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Insulated Concrete Foam (ICF)

Unlike Concrete Block builds, ICF''s can take on the same appearance as any wood framed home. Instead of framing the walls with studs, concrete is poured into light weight, simple to assemble Styrofoam foundations. These foundations are then interlinked to form the home's walls, ceilings and roof. ICF walls are produced as large single slabs of concrete without joints. They are also stronger structures with more weight bearing capacity than concrete blocks. ICF's are also safer and less time consuming to build.

Removable Forms & Precast Panel Homes

Concrete Removable Forms is yet another building method to consider. This process adds reinforcing steel and insulation before pouring concrete into the forms. Once the concrete cures, the forms are removed. Homes built with removable forms have very similar eco-friendly, energy saving benefits as other concrete homes. Yet, while this method has long been used for building basements, full home construction is not readily available in all areas.

Precast Panels are manufactured in a factory setting. Predetermined openings are made onsite to allow for windows and doors. Before delivering to the job site, steel, insulation and wiring are added to the panels. Transporting these large heavy panels is no easy task. While not a commonly used process, precast panels have some unique design advantages. Unlike other building methods, adding curves to the structure is possible. Overall, this method is much more complex and difficult to pull off than other concrete home ventures.

Pros & Cons of Concrete Homes 

Manufacturers utilize varying building methods. But, energy saving, eco-friendly benefits are similar. We'll first break down the general benefits and disadvantages that apply to most types of concrete homes.
Pros:

Energy Efficiency

  • Superior insulation offered is highly efficient at storing both warm and cooler air. This ultimately reduces your energy bills..
  • Concrete's solid airtight qualities keep your home draft free and comfortable.
  • Concrete is a thermal mass material that helps maintain a uniform, controlled temperature throughout your home.

Sustainability

  • Concrete waste can be repurposed as aggregate in new concrete.
  • Homes built with this concrete have a longer life cycle, decreasing the need for raw materials. 
  • Durability & Safety

    • Wind Resistance - Nothing withstands natural hurricanes or tropical storms like a concrete home.
    • Concrete is a noncombustible, fireproof material that adds extra safety for you and your family.
    • Concrete not only has a longer lifespan, it requires less maintenance over time.

    Lower Insurance Rates

  • Not only are concrete homes far more capable of surviving severe weather, the price to insure them against a natural disaster is far lower.
  • Noise Reduction

    • The dense mass of concrete creates an inside noise reduction of approximately 80%. This is particularly important in urban areas where homes are built closer together.
    Cons:

    Higher Initial Cost

    • Depending on what scouse you are referencing, the price for a concrete home can range between 3 - 6% higher than a wood framed home.  In fairness, that initial cost is more than offset by the money you will save over time on energy bills. In most cases you will not need as large of an HVAC system to heat and cool your house. This puts additional cash back in your pocket.

    Fewer Qualified Builders

    • You will not have as many experienced contractors in most areas qualified to build a concrete home.  

    Future of Concrete Homes

    As the growing need and desire for more eco friendly, energy efficient homes increases, so will the market for concrete homes. The housing market has slowed somewhat due to concerns over fiscal stability. Yet even with the present economic uncertainty, as much as 15% 15% of new homes in the US and Canada being built are concrete houses. Currently, US numbers are disproportionately larger in southern states where homeowners seek protection against hurricane damage. But, as consumer awareness increases, expect that growth trend to continue further north as well.
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