Why don't we build more concrete homes in the US?
Ron Ward, Vice President, Sales and Marketing, Western Forms, Kansas City, MO

Florida has long appreciated the structural integrity, architectural flexibility and low maintenance benefits of Concrete Homes.
"I think we are on the verge of a homebuilding revolution that has been brewing for a long time in the U.S. And I am not alone. Organizations like the newly formed Concrete Homes Council are focused on making concrete homes the fastest growing segment of the residential construction market. And I think this reality can happen soon."

The time is right in the U.S. for the emergence of concrete homes to become a conventional construction method. My company, Western Forms has been providing aluminum concrete forms to contractors and builders all over the world for single family and multi-family homes for over 20 years. The Western system has been used to construct an estimated 300,000 housing units in 42 countries. Of those only 3,000 units have been built in the U.S., primarily in Florida. The economics, aesthetics, environmental, structural and energy issues all point to a Concrete Homes advantage. Recently, we are seeing renewed interest from builders and developers. And, I think our contractors see a new market segment evolving outside of concrete foundations.

So, why aren't we building more concrete homes in the U.S.?

The answer is tradition. The pioneers who settled the U.S. found forests in their path. Today, wood is not as plentiful or as low cost as it once was. Ready mix concrete is now available everywhere in the U.S. at competitive and stable costs. Concrete contractors equipped with highly productive forming systems, pumps, and other equipment can produce an entire home structure in less than a week.

Brick or Concrete? Closeup of concrete wall using MonotexTM forms from Western Forms
Concrete homes, as defined by the Concrete Homes Council, are homes constructed of cast in place concrete using conventional forming systems. They can consist of exterior concrete walls only, exterior and interior concrete walls, and the "all concrete home"- with cast in place exterior and interior walls, flooring and roofing. Insulation can be exterior, interior, or sandwich. Exterior finish can be concrete, stucco, or other materials. The "All Concrete Home" provides the highest energy efficiency and structural integrity of any construction method. In 2000, over 140,000 concrete homes were constructed in the US, most of which were concrete block, and most located in Florida. The newly formed Concrete Homes Council has set a goal that by 2006 there will be over 100,000 cast in place, "removable form" concrete homes built in the US! This is a significant development and it has the attention of builders, concrete contractors, and organizations like the Portland Cement Association (PCA) and Concrete Foundation Association (CFA.)—so much so that the CFA has brought the Concrete Homes Council under their wing to help with technical and promotional needs. The PCA had 5 representatives at the most recent meeting of the Concrete Homes Council.

So, I ask again... why aren't we building more concrete homes in the U.S.?

It is cost competitive!

Concrete homes can be built at costs competitive to conventional wood frame methods. And the construction time can be cut in half by integrating the "moldable" concrete structure and finish into one operation.

It's beautiful and functional!
The outside can look like stucco, or can have siding, brick whatever. The inside looks identical to conventional construction. Windows look the same. Plumbing is the same. Electrical is the same. Actually, with proper planning, all are better! And done in less time.

It's structurally superior!

Monolithic concrete homes built with conventional forming systems are structurally superior to all other forms of construction. All areas that could be subject to tornado, earthquake, hurricane, water, and termites, could benefit from the advantages of concrete homes! A concrete home will outlast conventional wood construction by many years...and of course, concrete homes offer superior fire protection.

Concrete homes are energy efficient and environmentally friendly!
Sometime in the near future, your energy costs will probably match your mortgage payments. Energy cost of an all concrete home is 40% to 60% less!! And if you care about the environment, think of the trees saved if all houses were concrete homes!

What can you do about it? How can you get involved? How can you get answers? What can it mean to your future? A few suggestions...Get involved in the Concrete Homes Council. Talk to your CFA or PCA representative. Talk to builders and developers about what they think. Visit Western Forms and other web pages to find out more information. Or just give me a call; I will point you to the many resources available about the benefits of concrete homes, how to get involved with the Concrete Homes Council and even show you where to find concrete homes architectural drawings.

I have been around the residential construction market for 30 years, and I am not sure I have ever seen a better opportunity taking shape than this one.

So, Why aren't we building, more Concrete Homes in the U.S.? Ask me in 5 years!!!

Ron Ward is VP, Sales & Marketing of Western Forms, Kansas City, Missouri. Western Forms is a leading manufacturer of aluminum concrete forms in the U.S. for concrete foundations, concrete walls, precast concrete, and concrete homes. Ron has been involved in concrete construction for 30 years. Ron is a founding member of the Concrete Homes Council and actively involved with the CFA and other organizations promoting increased concrete usage. He is focusing his company's resources on the emergence of concrete homes in the U.S. He has been actively involved in non-profit housing projects such as Habitat for Humanity and Homes from the Heart. Ron holds an engineering degree from University of Detroit.

— Ron Ward,
Vice President,
Sales and Marketing,
Western Forms,
Kansas City, MO

For more information about Concrete Homes, contact Ron Ward at Western Forms, (800) 821-3870, e-mail info@westernforms.com. Visit their website at www.westernforms.com.

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© 2001 L&M Construction Chemicals, Inc. | ConcreteNews Winter 2001.

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