A Slab Becomes a Home: Concrete Houses
In 1906, Thomas Edison made a grand pronouncement. He announced that he was developing a house that could be constructed in less than a week, mass produced and so affordable that even the most impoverished family would be able to afford it comfortably. His solution: single cast concrete homes which would be poured onsite.
The mold would incorporate everything that a family needed, including staircases, picture frames, bathtubs, fixtures, kitchens and even possibly furniture. Edison had some basis for this belief. He had opened a cement business and revolutionized the production process by using equipment he had invented for crushing iron ore, making the process more than five times as effective as others in the same time period.
Edison’s Dream of a Concrete Home
Edison had also built many of the manufacturing plant’s buildings from concrete components, which were easy to assemble, as well as durable and fire proof. However, his dream was to create a concrete house that could be crafted with a single pour, incorporating elements such as colored dyes to make painting a non-issue. Unfortunately, the molds for the homes were extremely expensive, and it proved extremely difficult to maintain a consistent concrete mixture during the entire construction. While 11 homes were successfully constructed, they were not well received by the public and the project was largely abandoned.
While Edison’s project did not achieve the grandiose vision he had predicted, the idea of concrete construction has remained with many architects and designers over the years. Concrete is widely employed in industrial applications, such as skyscrapers, roads and stadiums. The original Yankee Stadium was made with concrete from Edison’s own company, and the highly acclaimed “Birds Nest” Stadium built for the Beijing Olympics contained an inner seating structure that was made from concrete that had been dyed red. The idea of concrete homes has not disappeared from the architectural world. One of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most famous structures, the “Falling Waters” house, employs many concrete elements that allow for the patios and structures that seemingly float over the waterfall.
Modern Concrete Homes
Modern homeowners have a multitude of options when it comes to building with concrete. Many contractors use Insulated Concrete Foaming Systems (ICFs), which serve both as molds for the concrete and remain part of the wall in order to insulate the home.
Using ICFs, a foundation for a home can be poured in as little as a day. However, many homeowners are opting to use concrete for part of all of their exterior walls. This allows for solid, stable walls that are quick to install, well insulated, airtight and fire resistant. In fact, the National Association of Home Builders estimates that as much as 20% of all new homes are built using concrete. Most of the time, facades such as stone, brick or stucco are the applied over the concrete to create a traditional appearance.
Concrete homes have a long and storied history. From being one of the original prefab houses to ultramodern design to common family homes, they allow for a multitude of uses and design concepts. This has made it a popular option for both designer architects and contractors.