Habitat for Humanity provides quality homes to families in need. Portland Cement Association (PCA) participated with Habitat of Lake County, Illinois, to build a single-family residence incorporating innovative concrete systems and finishes to reduce living expenses. Durable, energy efficient homes would be great for anyone, but are especially important for families on small budgets. Habitat’s success has always been based on reducing the purchase cost and monthly mortgage payments. High-performance concrete systems and finishes lower everyday operating costs and long term maintenance expenses. Habitat for Humanity homes built with concrete make the homes even more affordable by reducing day-to-day expenses for the new homeowners through high energy efficiency and sustainable, high-quality/low-maintenance construction.

Built in Waukegan, Illinois, this home was supported by the sponsors of Greenbuild, the world's largest green building conference representing all sectors of the green building sector. The home was designed to qualify as Platinum certified, the highest rating under the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Homes (LEED® for Homes) program. Homes certified under LEED for Homes incorporate sustainable design and building practices to reduce environmental impacts during construction and once occupied. 


The project features the following concrete products and systems: Insulating Concrete Forms (ICF) structural walls, interior and exterior finishes with cement-based materials for floors, countertops, siding, and a driveway constructed with permeable interlocking concrete pavers. The various concrete materials all help to contribute to the LEED for Homes certification.
  • Exterior Envelope: The foundation and above-grade exterior structural walls are made with Logix ICFs. Reinforced concrete was placed in these ICFs designed to be left in place after the concrete hardens. With conventional forming, the forms are removed after the concrete sets, exposing the strong durable walls; however, the forms remain with ICFs to provide a solid concrete wall with continuous insulation to reduce drafts and stop heat flow. The high performance of the ICF walls contributes to at least one LEED point for optimized energy performance. 
  • The concrete used to fill these forms has a minimum recycled content of 30 percent fly ash or slag. This contributed one point for the foundation, and another point for the above-grade walls. In addition to providing superior insulation, the walls are also strong enough to resist strong tornado-force winds. Structural insulated roof panels create a conditioned attic and vaulted living space, completing the tight, well-insulated exterior envelope. 

To finish of the exterior, Hardie Board Cement Siding offers the look of wood siding and the long-term performance of a cement-based material. It also contributes to another 0.5 point for recycled content.

  • Floors: The concrete floors in the home have an attractive, decorative finish. They also complement the embedded radiant heating system. This extremely efficient type of heat also assists optimized energy performance, while reducing draftiness to further enhance the comfort of the family. 

The floors are considered hard flooring per the LEED for Homes requirements, and are eligible for 0.5 point for 45 percent exposed, and an additional 0.5 point since 90 percent or more of the floor is left exposed. They are finished with the ICoat Flooring System. This thin topping is made with white cement and is applied directly to the concrete floor. It bonds well with concrete, can be textured as desired, and readily accepts coloring. This surface is attractive, requires minimal maintenance, and stands up to heavy wear and tear. 

After staining, the floors are sealed. By eliminating carpeting and vinyl, which can provide a medium for mold growth, indoor air quality is improved. 
  • Countertops: The manufacturer of the decorative concrete floor finish has a companion product line for countertops. It is also based on white cement for strength, wear resistance, and ease of coloring. The color of the countertop coordinates with the stained floor. The durable, long-lasting finish is inert, and does not produce off-gas like composite wood-based materials. 
  • Exterior Pavement: Driveway and sidewalk pavers provide another opportunity to highlight the performance of concrete materials. The large, rectangular units are attractively colored to complement the exterior finishes of the home. They are equally suitable for patio space and other exterior paving. 

The pavers are installed with joints filled with small stones. Storm water runoff can drain through the joints to an "open graded" crushed stone base layer. The water is temporarily held in this layer below the pavers until it naturally percolates into the surrounding soil. Use of permeable pavements contributes to the ability of the project to earn at least one additional point for maximizing the percentage of permeable coverage. 

In addition to improving water management, the pavers, (manufactured by Unilock Inc.) help reduce pollution. They are made with cement mixed with titanium oxide. Using light and air, this photocatalytic concrete reduces air pollution by breaking down organic and inorganic substances in contact with the pavers.

By contributing to at least 4.5 points, concrete and other cement-based materials are a big part of the LEED for Homes Platinum rating that this home is anticipated to achieve. Performance benefits include low maintenance finishes, energy efficiency and comfortable interiors, and improved indoor air quality.