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Hurricane Sandy Prompts Concrete Home’s Construction

A concrete home in New York was designed to withstand flooding.

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In late 2012, one of the costliest hurricanes in US history struck North America. Hurricane Sandy killed over 100 people and laid waste to infrastructure valued at $4.75bn – including at least 650 000 homes. In 2013, the National Hurricane Centre found that the cyclone was perhaps the sixth-costliest on record when adjusting for inflation, population and wealth normalisation factors.

Among the homes impacted by the cyclone was a house in Far Rockaway, New York. In the US, most deaths (48) took place in New York and the house, which was left damaged, was torn down in the aftermath. Fontan Architecture sought to re-build the house and make it flood-resistant by using poured-in-place concrete as a building material.

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“In case of a flood or hurricane a reinforced concrete house will have a far greater structural value,” says Jorge Fontan, owner of Fontan Architecture, who extols concrete as a building material. “Concrete can take a beating and survive extreme weather and disasters far better than most houses would.”

Unlike the alternative precast concrete, poured-in-place concrete is poured at the site itself (where it will remain almost permanently). The Far Rockaway home is distinct as the façade features raw, exposed concrete and yet rawness is just one option: concrete can be rough, raw, smooth or polished!

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A concrete house is one in which concrete is the main structural material. The walls are concrete-bearing while the floors, roof and foundation may be made from concrete. Disregarding issues of an aesthetic nature, homes made of concrete have increased durability, are non-combustible and can even resemble wood given the versatility of concrete – and without the risks of wood as a building material (such as burning!)

These benefits notwithstanding, building a house out of concrete demands skill and one may struggle to find contractors with whom to entrust the project. Concrete homes are also costlier than those that have a wooden frame, according to Fontan.

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Regardless of how one feels about the aesthetics of concrete homes, there can be no doubt of their structural benefits; especially in areas prone to hurricanes, as Lloyd Alter suggests, “a concrete house makes a whole lot of sense”. 

Photo Credits: Jorge Fontan

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