I have always wondered why concrete homes have never become more popular. They haven’t been able to grow beyond a few regions or a few builders and architects who aren’t afraid to be different.
Here are the 2 reasons why concrete homes haven’t caught on
1. Concrete homes just make too much sense. The benefits are too obvious.
I was working with Owens Corning and Dow when the concrete and foam building products started to gain some attention. I remember how excited they were because they saw it as an easy way to sell more foam.
Although some people think they really got behind it, the truth is that no one ever really committed. They thought that throwing around some marketing dollars would make it a sure thing. The reason that concrete failed, however, is because they never saw it as their business. They saw it as their customer’s business. Their customers were smaller inventor engineer types who didn’t have the sales and marketing expertise or resources to change the market.
These customers were smaller inventor engineer types who didn’t have the sales and marketing expertise or resources to change the market.
It just made so much sense that no one thought it would be a tough sale to the builder. Most builders got sales call on switching to concrete. They took one look at the numbers and said “No Thanks”. Builders that I talk to have never received another sales call since.
One of the main barriers was and still is the price the contractor wants to charge the builder. There was no concerted effort to overcome the builder’s concerns or problems.
No matter how much sense an idea makes, it’s important to remember that converting builders is hard work that takes time.
2. Everyone is chasing a small market instead of building a larger one.
For years I have walked trade shows and I always see a number of concrete home component manufacturers each with their own booths. All of the messages are “My Concrete Home Product is the Better Than the Other Guy”. I see the same thing with their advertising.
The problem with this is that it is all aimed at builders and architects who already use concrete. I rarely see a message to the other 90% of builders and architects who use wood framing that talks about the benefits of concrete. A better message that would reach the other 90% would be about why the builder will be more successful if he switched to concrete.
There are a lot of small to medium size manufacturers spending their marketing budgets to say “Look at Me”. A better idea would be to group together with the message “Look at Concrete”.
At World of Concrete the Tilt Up Wall Association had a booth, saying, “Look at Tilt Up”. They are growing the market for Tilt Up and then letting their members compete for a slice of a bigger pie.
At the IBS show the SIPS Association had a booth doing the same thing for their members. Two other groups of manufacturers who also do this are the Exterior Insulation Finish System (EIFS) association and the Vinyl Siding Institute.
Most of the time you don’t find the individual members exhibiting at these shows, which helps defray some of the costs.
The ICF manufacturers should let go of their egos and band together to convert builders from wood to concrete.
Why the market for concrete homes will stay small.
1. The overall housing market is growing as are the sales of ICF’s, so there is no need to do the hard work of growing the market.
2. Several ICF manufacturers have gone out of business, which means that there’s even more opportunity for the survivors. Another reason to sit back and take the easy way.
3. The only chance the industry has for growth is to band together and work together to push through the barriers that have held them back for years. If one of the larger building material companies had this product, we would be seeing a lot more concrete homes today.
By banding together the industry can have the clout of a major manufacturer. My recommendation would be to get serious and meet with someone like the Vinyl Siding Institute to learn how to do it.
Perhaps concrete homes could finally be taken seriously and become the preferred way to build homes that they should be.