Material Guide: The Benefits of Building With Concrete

After an unprecedented year of earthquakes, hurricanes, and fires, a bright light has been shed on the benefits of building with concrete.
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From its affordability to its light-weight substance, there are many advantages of choosing wood as a construction material. However, despite how easy timber, lumber, and plywood can be to work with, it's important to keep in mind the multiple drawbacks that can arise with these options. 

Let's start with wood's inherent fragility. This material is less stable in high wind conditions, such as tornadoes and hurricanes. Furthermore, lumber is prone to moisture and termite intrusion. Yet, one of the most obvious drawbacks of building with wood is its flammability. For instance, wood trusses can start reducing in thickness by 25 percent after just 15 minutes of catching on fire.

Fortunately, there's another building material that excels in durability: concrete. Although this material is nothing new, thanks to its bountiful number of benefits, there's no denying it's making quite the comeback.

The defining gesture of a house on the Big Island of Hawaii by architect Craig Steely is a 139-foot-long, four-foot-tall concrete beam spanning the roof. 

Not only is concrete hardwearing and long-lasting, it's aesthetically pleasing, too. More so, concrete buildings evoke a strong sense of security with a low-maintenance finish, appropriate for both interiors and exteriors. 

"With a single material, we can accomplish many things: energy efficiency, strength, durability, resilience, and safety," explains Dr. Jeremy Gregory, the executive director of the Concrete Sustainability Hub.

Thanks to its natural color, concrete also serves as a wonderful "blank canvas" for landscaping.

What's more? Concrete building naturally become more energy efficient, too. The thermal mass that concrete walls and floors provide to a building are able to absorb heat during the day and release it at night. This passive transfer smooths out heat transmission through the walls and limits the need for mechanical systems. 

According to the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association (NRMCA), concrete's thermal mass properties save five to eight percent in annual energy costs compared to softwood lumber.

Along with its durability, concrete requires very little maintenance.

Although data proves the initial cost of concrete is typically higher than building with variations of wood, the life cycle costs are lower. Because of it's chemical nature, concrete gets stronger over time. Therefore, buildings stand for centuries with little maintenance required. 

Delivering a modern look, concrete serves as a long-lasting, hardwearing material.

As more homeowners are experiencing the catastrophic effects of natural disasters, the value of using stronger and more resilient building techniques is evident. Building a house with concrete not only provides a safe haven from fires, floods and harsh winds, it's also a testament that the structure is intended to stand for generations to come.  

Although the initial cost of concrete is typically higher than wood, the life cycle costs are lower.