Over the past century there has been a massive and continual shift in the demographic patterns and spread of the American population. Much of these trends have been driven by large macro forces such as technological innovation. For example the shift from rural to urban in the pre-WW2 period was mostly due to factors such as the Great Depression reducing farm jobs and the huge demand for factory workers starting at the beginning of WW2. The next great migration to the suburbs was facilitated by the availability of automobiles and cheap woodframe home construction such as the famous Levittown, resulting in the great emptying out of the American inner city.
In the aftermath of the Great Recession, there has been a return to the city and near suburbs driven by the young millenial population. This massive influx has demanded the need for new denser housing and there has been a continual clash between concrete and woodframe structures. Typical in the smaller size home and apartment complexes developers have chosen woodframe due to its lower upfront cost, forgiving construction techniques, and cleaner aesthetic. But more and more flaws have come to light about wood-frame apartment complexes such as heightened fire risk noise and poor insulation there has been a push back demanding new technologies to tackle the task.
Recent advances in concrete construction techniques have attempted to tackle one of the shortcomings of wood construction by providing a better insulation using various design techniques. The net result is that even though a concrete home might be 10% more expensive than a wood construction, the cost savings from the better insulation more than make up for the price differential over the long run. As most of the buyers of such a buildings are large commercial operations who are invested in the building as a profit center for the long run rather than short time homeowners, they are more than willing to spend a bit more upfront to save money over the long run.
Another key aspect of any construction is the aesthetic nature of the building. Concrete has long been famous for drab grey buildings without any paint or color and looking exactly like the same between each other. This is where newer techniques like “water based concrete stain” come in and can be used to permanently stain the concrete an aesthetically pleasing color.
The Future of Concrete
The future of building construction in America and around the world will greatly depend on new technologies being developed. One of the big issues that concrete companies are trying to resolve is the highly energy intensive process of making cement. But newer techniques being developed today probably will not be commercially accepted for another 10-15 years. Meanwhile the trend of the population seems clear that more and more dense construction will be built resulting in an increasing use of concrete due to the many fire safety and insulation advantages it provides. The process of making concrete more and more aesthetically pleasing will also be a big part of the future technological development and will be a crucial factor in getting consumers to choose concrete construction for safer homes and apartments.