Readers Questions To Master US Construction Man Series Nine
Colm here ...
A few months ago I conducted an interview with Construction Expert and Master Builder.
This time we are going concentrate on building question only.
Every time I drive buy a house under construction and see it being built out of lumber I wonder why we are using such inferior materials.
A house built of aerated autoclaved concrete or sprayed concrete over Styrofoam would not rot, mold or ever have termites. It would also be fire and wind resistant and be much less expensive to insure.
The reason why lumber is still being used for building houses so prevasively is that this is what builders are most comfortable with working with.
Like other professionals builders tend to build within their comfort zone. Most are still building with the basic materials which were used in the 1940's.
As for concrete -- the first problem is that this is old technology. Concrete cracks. It's also susceptible to mold because of the moisture that concrete must contain to maintain it's integrity.
If you look at your foundation, you'll notice veins in the foundation. These veins are termite highways to into your home. Concrete is one of the worse construction items to use after wood. Not to mention that prices for concrete have skyrocketed over the last year.
There is new technology that the smart builders are using. We use technology that makes properties we construct certified to be fire proof, water proof, mold proof, termite proof, wind resistant up to 145mph, and does not crack. This is where the current technology is.
Why aren't homes more energy efficient? The USA is facing a serious natural gas shortage a few years out. No amount of drilling can reverse the decline form depletion of old gas fields. The cost of oil and natural gas will crush homeowners.
Masonry construction mentioned above would improve energy efficiency (less air infiltration and thermal flywheel effect), as would geothermal heat pumps, better windows and super high efficiency HVAC systems.
What you say is true. However, concrete is not all that energy efficient. Our homes have a consistent R-70+ rating certification for all climates.
Combine this with radiant heat for efficiency and the result is that you have an extremely high energy efficient home. Keep in mind that using concrete in construction creates a high pollutant which reduces the air quality around us. There's a reason why those working with concrete wear those masks.
As to why homes are not more energy efficient.
One is that builders build homes with materials within their comfort zone. It's nearly impossible to get a builder to build with anything other than what they're used to.
Second reason is that whether it be a buyer, investor or developer the main theme that all builders hear is "how cheap" can you build this for?
Building energy efficiency into a home is often more expensive. No one wants to incur the cost of this expense. With the homes we build this is not an issue.
(Colm comment: being energy efficient, your savings are spread over years, so make sure you do not just look at the capital cost side of the equation - mathematically, it would not be accurate.
Last point; even if you are developing it for sale, you can turn this energy efficiency into a marketing plus.)