Concrete is one of the oldest and most prolific construction materials. In recent years concrete facades and buildings have been gaining in popularity for reasons of durability, design aesthetics, and sustainability. The popularity of concrete buildings and homes is growing in the United States.
Almost all buildings and homes have concrete in them. It is a common material that is structurally strong and durable. Concrete construction has generally been used for structural elements like: foundations, bearing walls, concrete columns, beams, and floor slabs. In recent years concrete has become more popular I think mostly in part because of durability.
American Architecture has had a bit of a history with cheap construction and buildings that do not last. We are starting to realize that building for durability and sustainability matters. As an architect I have always said the most sustainable thing you can do in architecture is build to last. Using a building over along time is far more sustainable then constantly rebuilding or repairing and renovating a building.
As people are moving towards sustainability and durability in design we see more and more concrete construction. This is expanding from just concrete structural elements to Concrete Facades.
As people are using more concrete in their buildings it is only natural that we see more concrete. Concrete facades are popping up all over New York and I think this will continue to be a trend.
Modern Concrete Buildings
Modern Concrete buildings are using exposed concrete with a variety of applications. First off there is poured in place concrete and precast concrete these are very different.
Poured in Place Concrete
Poured in place concrete is what it sounds like it is concrete that arrives at the site in a truck and is poured into form work on the construction site.
Precast concrete is poured in a factory and shipped to the site. Precast concrete has more control but will not always be cost effective or even available in your location.
Concrete Facade Finishing
There are many different types of finishes for concrete and many factors that will affect the look of the concrete.
- The type of formwork
- Concrete Form liners
- Concrete Mixture
- Sealers for Concrete
- Polished Concrete
Formwork and form ties leave patterns on concrete you need to think these through in advance. You can use them to your advantage to make pAtterns or affects.
Form liners are materials placed inside the form work to make shapes, patterns, or textures. You can really do just about anything with form liners. These can be purchased from companies who manufacture them or you can have them made.
There mixture of the concrete is a huge factor. There are aggregates and additives that affect the aesthetic of the concrete.. You can add color additives for example.
There are sealers, spray on finishes that are applied after the concrete work is complete. These will change the look of the concrete and provide waterproofing.
You can grind and polish concrete after it is poured to create a shiny smooth finish this is labor intensive, highly dusty, and a bit expensive but gives a unique look and feel to the concrete.
We got involved in building concrete homes after Super Storm Sandy hit New York. We have worked on 10 homes that were destroyed or damaged by Sandy. Obviously when you rebuild a house that was destroyed by a storm you want the new house to survive the next storm. That is why we went for concrete homes for rebuilding in the flood zone.
The Concrete houses we did were all in Far Rockaway or Breezy Point some of the areas hit the worst by Sandy. They were built with poured in place concrete includinh the footings, columns, floor slabs, bearing walls, roofs and facades.
This is a close up photo of a poured in place concrete facade for a house we did in NY.
Interior Exposed Concrete
Concrete can be exposed on the interior of a building as well. There are lots of finishes you can do on concrete.
Here is a pic of a poured in place polished concrete floor slab in a showroom.
Thank You for reading our Blog Post on Concrete Facade Design.
Please leave general questions or comments below. If you want to discuss a specific project you can contact us directly.
This post was written by Jorge Fontan AIA a Registered Architect and owner of New York City architecture firm Fontan Architecture. Jorge Fontan has earned 3 degrees in the study of architecture including two degrees from the City University of New York and a Masters Degree in Advanced Architectural Design from Columbia University. Jorge has a background in construction and has been practicing architecture for 15 years where he has designed renovations and new developments of various building types.