Concrete house is designed to survive another Superstorm Sandy

concrete house far rockaway
© Vincent Mollo

Architect Jorge Fortan cements his case for a concrete and foam sandwich house.

This TreeHugger has never been fond of concrete, preferring straw and sticks as building materials for houses, but then I never lived in Far Rockaway, NY, where hundreds of homes were destroyed by Superstorm Sandy. That’s why architect Jorge Fontan built this house out of poured-in-place concrete. Unlike straw and sticks, the wind can huff and puff but it won’t blow this house down.

The original house was badly damaged and subsequently torn down. The property was developed with the Built It Back Program in New York. The house is elevated as a flood zone design feature. The idea was to build a house that would be sustainable and survive a future flood. It is built with concrete for maximum durability. The house was poured in place concrete and the concrete was left exposed and raw.

Fontan lists the benefits of concrete homes, including durability, fire resistance and aesthetics, noting that “Some people love the look of concrete, some don’t. This one is subjective.” I am with him here, but then I am a big fan of brutalism. He considers it "disaster proof: In case of a flood or hurricane a reinforced concrete house will have a far greater structural value. Concrete can take a beating and survive extreme weather and disasters far better than most houses would."

I have long argued against this position, but Fontan makes a case that building with concrete is sustainable:

I have always held by my belief that the most important aspect of sustainability is building something that lasts a very long time. Concrete is perfect in this regard.

It is hard to argue the point given where the house is located. The house is also really well insulated; steel studs are held off the poured concrete wall by foamed glass blocks, and then the whole space is filled with spray foam.

In the past, when I have been critical of concrete and foam sandwiches, I have been criticized by people who live in places subject to tornados, hurricanes and other forces of nature that would destroy a wooden house. It's a fair point; in this case, in this location, a concrete house makes a whole lot of sense and we can’t be doctrinaire. More at Jorge Fontan Architect.

front view of house© Vincent Mollo

Concrete house is designed to survive another Superstorm Sandy
Architect Jorge Fortan cements his case for a concrete and foam sandwich house.

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