Is This House Indestructible?

The Crete House, a precast concrete structure designed for the Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon competition in Denver this month, is being touted as a home that is impervious to extreme weather, fires, moisture, mold, and insects. The Solar Decathlon, being held Thursday through Oct. 15, is a biennial competition that challenges teams of college students to design and build full-sized solar-powered homes. Thirteen teams from universities across the globe will compete in contests based on innovative design, energy efficiency, water use, resident comfort, and market potential.

The Crete House was created by students from Washington University in St. Louis. The home is made of concrete sandwich panels, consisting of 4 inches of standard concrete, 5 inches of insulation, and 1 ¼ inches of ultra-high-performance concrete. The home, an alternative to wood-frame construction, is said to be six times stronger than conventional concrete. Further, the home’s walls can store and slowly release heat from the sun.

“High-performance precast concrete is inherently resilient, protecting against fire, moisture and mold, insects, seismic events, and extreme weather conditions such as storms, strong winds, and manmade phenomena such as blasts, force protection, and acoustic mitigation,” the team writes on its Solar Decathlon information page.

The home’s concrete panels are manufactured in a factory and assembled onsite. Large concrete gutters collect water and direct it to storage tanks, which can then feed vegetation around the home. The interior of the home offers radiant heating and cooling systems for the floor and ceiling. Hot water also circulates through piping within the concrete panels, which then allows the heat to be redistributed to other portions of the house.

Source: “Sustainable Concrete Home Can Stand up to Weather Events,” BUILDER (Oct. 2, 2017) and “Solar Decathlon 2017,” Washington University in St. Louis (2017)