Habitat and Concrete Bring Quality to Affordable Housing

Homes will save families as much as 44% on energy bills

New Orleans ( October 26, 2001) – Affordable yet high-quality housing has long been the mission of the concrete home industry, and now it will be a reality for four families in New Orleans. Using an innovative concrete wall system, the New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity is building four concrete homes, with another 10 planned for the city in 2002.

Homes built with concrete walls can save owners up to 44 percent on energy bills, and they are 66 percent quieter than wood homes–two great benefits that make concrete homes a solid investment for any family.

"New Orleans Habitat is especially pleased with the energy-efficiency and durability of concrete homes," says Jim Pate, executive director of New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity. "Every dollar saved in energy or maintenance costs by our Habitat homeowners is another dollar they can use for family emergencies, educational opportunities, or just a family dinner at a decent restaurant once in awhile."

Some of the savings are immediate, thanks to programs of the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources designed to promote energy-efficient building practices. These concrete homes qualify for HERO–Home Energy Rebate Options–which offers up to $2,000 in cash for highly efficient homes. To qualify, the homes must meet the standards of the U.S.

Environmental Protection Agency for Energy Star Homes: 30 percent more energy-efficient than the requirements of the 1995 Model Energy Code. The concrete Habitat houses easily exceed this standard.

The homes also qualify for more favorable mortgage loans under state and federal programs. Because heating and cooling a home is the highest cost of ownership after the mortgage payment, lenders take energy efficiency into account when making home loans. Borrows qualify for higher debt-to-income ratios, making homeownership possible for some and allowing others to buy a higher-quality home.

The New Orleans homes achieve high levels of energy efficiency with a concrete wall system that combines the insulating power of foam with the strength, durability, and thermal properties of concrete.

As in conventional New Orleans construction, the first step is to pour a concrete slab that forms the foundation and floor. Next, workers begin building the perimeter walls by positioning and tying-in vertical reinforcing-steel cages around the slab. Foam panels are then placed inside the reinforcing steel. Aluminum forms for the concrete are locked into place on both sides of the steel-foam assembly.

Concrete is poured into the aluminum forms on either side of the foam–creating an eight-inch-thick, reinforced concrete-foam-concrete sandwich panel. The forms are later stripped away and used on the next house. The resulting exposed concrete surface can be finished to meet the homeowner’s preference. Options include finishing the concrete itself–to look like brick or other finish styles–or adding vinyl siding, stucco, real brick and more.
Construction costs are comparable to those of traditional wood-frame houses, say form and concrete producers. As in all Habitat projects, construction relies on volunteer labor, donated materials, and industry sponsorship.

"We’re excited about our partnership with the Portland Cement Association and the concrete industry," says Pate. "Our Habitat homeowners are hard-working low-income families. Due to the generosity of donors and sponsors, we are able to provide homeownership to these families. Our families put in over 350 hours of ‘sweat equity’ on other Habitat homes and their own in lieu of a cash down payment and Habitat provides the permanent financing at zero interest, making homeownership truly affordable."

The homes built in New Orleans are part of a national effort by the concrete home industry to collaborate with HFH. So far, other concrete homes have been built–or are planned–in Atlanta, Houston, Las Vegas, and Omaha.

The homes are located in the Little Woods area of New Orleans.

In addition to HFH and PCA, other national and local companies and organizations are collaborating on the homes:

  • New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity
  • Portland Cement Association
  • Concrete & Aggregates Association of Louisiana (CAAL) and its member companies
  • Western Forms
  • Dow Chemical/Thermomass Systems
  • Lafarge Ready Mixed Concrete
  • Lafarge Cement
  • South Central Cement Promotion Association
  • Master Builders

Habitat for Humanity International is a nonprofit, ecumenical Christian housing ministry. HFHI seeks to eliminate poverty housing and homelessness from the world, and to make decent shelter a matter of conscience and action. For information go to: www.habitat.org.

Based in Skokie, Illinois, the Portland Cement Association represents cement companies in the U.S. and Canada. It conducts market development, engineering, research, education, and public affairs programs.


Brian Bock, Portland Cement Association: 847.966.6200 (office); 630.258.1413 (cell)

Jim Pate, New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity: 504.861.2077 (office); 504.259.2305 (cell)

Jessie Melancon, CAAL: 800.422.6849, ext. 120 (office); 504.722.9437 (cell)


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