Modern Concrete Home Design Considerations

Matt
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It seems that American still prefer to build their houses out of wood and brick rather than use concrete. However, the new trends are aiming to challenge the status quo of concrete home construction in the USA. The latest hit in the industry seems to be building a modern concrete home by utilizing concrete blocks. Thanks to these precast modules, you can build walls and other parts of your home like you are playing with Lego pieces. 

Concrete blocks are often made from Portland cement, water, and aggregates like quartz or stone. They come in a wide range of shapes and sizes, but a standard block has dimensions of 16 x 8 x 8 inches. The possibilities with these homes are almost endless, which is why we are covering some design considerations in this article. 


Type of Concrete Foundations

Modern Concrete Home Design Considerations

Reyes House by Teodoro Gonzalez de Leon

Did you know that the foundations can significantly vary depending on the site, building, and climate? We tried to single out the ones most often used in commercial and residential structures - slab-on-grade foundation, raft foundation, and T-shaped foundation.

The slab-on-grade foundation requires a suitable ground as it is directly poured onto it. Dry and warm climates are ideal for this option. In a colder climate, you can use a frost-protected foundation where you insulate the slab with a couple of layers of polystyrene sheeting. With thick edges, slab-on-grade is an affordable choice that can provide extreme stability.

Raft (mat) foundations are suitable for poor-quality soil and unpredictable water behavior. Although it is similar to the previous option, the difference is that this one can bear the entire structure, while the slab-on-grade foundation only supports the lower floor of the house. You can additionally reinforce raft foundations if you use ribs or beams and build them into the foundation.

Finally, you can also choose a T-shaped foundation, which you may find in many residential structures. Their base is wide for added stability, which effectively spreads the load. Also known as spread footing, this type of foundation is suitable for cold climates and places where the ground freezes in the winter. They are not that tough to construct and they are relatively affordable. Aside from using them for homes, small and medium residential buildings also use them as long as the soil is adequate. 


Purpose of Design

Modern Concrete Home Design Considerations

Namly House by Chang Architects

One of the crucial things to consider is the purpose of your design. Are you looking to build a sustainable home that wants to utilize the heat from direct sunlight for energy efficiency? Or you want to play with forms and curves to get the most out of the aesthetics? The truth is that aesthetics and functionality often go hand in hand with the modern concrete home design.

Modern Concrete Home Design Considerations

Concrete House 2 by Joaquin Torres Architects

Modern Concrete Home Design Considerations

Cidade das Artes by Atelier Christian de Portzamparc

Pros and Cons of Modern Concrete Home Design

Modern Concrete Home Design Considerations

Concrete House by BAK Arquitectos

Just like any other house type, a modern concrete home has its advantages and drawbacks.

We like to start with positive sides, so here are the benefits of this design:

  • Strength and Durability - believe it or not, concrete blocks are stronger than poured concrete as long as they are built and assembled properly. They can withstand tornadoes and hurricane winds, as well as earthquakes.
  • No Insects - you probably won't see a sign of termites if you choose concrete and insect infestations are generally rare.
  • Fire Resistance - are high temperatures a relatively often occurrence in your city? You shouldn't worry about any serious damage from a potential fire.
  • Air and Sound Insulation - if you do a proper job with windows and doors, you will enjoy a soundproof home. More importantly, your insulation will enable energy efficiency.


The downsides:

  • Potential Water Issues - if you live in areas where it often rains, you might be facing water damage. This can be solved with proper drainage, house wraps and other interior waterproofing.
  • High Initial Cost - the initial price per block may be higher than for a drywall or traditional frame construction.
  • Requests Creativity - you need to be creative and talk to your builder about the possible solutions to avoid your home looking unattractive. Fortunately, there are various finishes that can serve as a way around this.


Picking the Right Exterior Siding

Modern Concrete Home Design Considerations

Gatineau Hills Residence by Christopher Simmonds Architects

Choosing an attractive exterior siding is a vital decision when designing a modern concrete house. Here are some types that you can consider:

  • Fiber Cement Siding - an extremely popular choice that is resistant to decay and offers plenty of color options.
  • Wood Siding - an eco-friendly option that can swiftly be replaced, but it can also be damaged by water, insects or fire.
  • Metal Siding - this is a low-maintenance and eco-friendly solution, but needs to be properly finished or it there may be some discoloration or rust.
  • Vinyl Siding - an affordable option, but it is not waterproof and it cannot be repainted.

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