New Studies Reveal that Concrete Based Construction is Less Expensive than Wood

Two key studies have been released this year that both point to concrete as a very competitive alternative to wood-frame construction methods in terms of both building costs and insurance. Both reports also included nearby Towson, Maryland as one of the reference cities and used similar reference buildings. The results of these studies, when combined, provide a very persuasive case for the use of concrete-based construction methods as opposed to more traditional wood framing.

Wood Framing Versus Concrete Construction Insurance Costs

A 2017 study by Dr. Pieter VanderWerf and Nicholas Haidari of Boston College revealed that when wood-frame construction methods were compared with concrete construction methods for multi-family dwellings, insurance quotes were less expensive for those built using concrete. Insurance quotes were obtained for builder’s risk insurance and commercial property insurance based on a 100,000 square-foot, 4-story apartment building comprising 8 two-bedroom and 14 one-bedroom apartments per floor. The insurance rates were obtained in different cities across the United States: Towson, Maryland; Edgewater, New Jersey; Los Angeles, California; Orlando, Florida; and the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, Texas.

The study conclusively demonstrated that, for the reference apartment building, using combustible wood framing was significantly more expensive to insure both during the building phase and the occupancy phase when compared to the use of non-combustible concrete. Note that the wood-framed construction represented wood stud wall framing with floors built using either dimensioned lumber or engineered wood products that would meet the building code requirements for Type V construction. The non-combustible concrete construction represented concrete and/or masonry construction that included precast concrete, cast-in-place concrete, insulated concrete forms, and load-bearing concrete masonry, all meeting the building code requirements for Type I, II, or III construction.

The savings involved ranged from 22 – 72% for builder’s risk insurance quotes and 14 – 65% for commercial property insurance. For Towson, Maryland, the builder’s risk insurance saw a savings of 46.6% and the commercial property insurance was 35.2% less expensive. When questioned, many of the insurance agents commented that the fire hazard associated with wood buildings was one of the major determining factors. The authors of the report believe that this difference in price will continue to grow over the next few years.

Wood Framing Construction Costs Compared to Multiple Construction Methods

Another report was prepared this year by Walter G. M. Schneider III, Ph.D., and focused on the initial cost of construction for multi-residential structures using six different construction materials and a reference building consisting of four floors with 25,000 square feet per floor and multiple one- and two-bedroom units. The construction methods evaluated were as follows:

  • Conventional wood framing with wood floor system (Type VA Construction)
  • Light gauge steel framing with cast-in-place concrete floor system on metal form deck (Type IIB Construction)
  • Load bearing concrete masonry construction with precast concrete plank floor system (Type IIB Construction)
  • Precast concrete walls and precast concrete floor system (Type IIB Construction)
  • Insulated Concrete Form (ICF) walls and precast concrete plank floor system (Type IIB Construction)
  • Insulated Concrete Form (ICF) walls and ICF concrete floor system (Type IIB Construction)

Cost estimates were obtained for three reference cities: Towson, Maryland; Edgewater, New Jersey; and Dallas, Texas. Notice these three cities were also included in the other report described.

To read the full report, click here.

For May 2017, a compartmentalized construction method using concrete-based construction material was found to cost less than wood frame construction and light gauge steel framing construction for all three cities. All concrete-based methods were within 20% of the cost for conventional wood framing, and it could be argued that this additional cost could easily be offset by the usual recommended contingency budget. It can also be said that the durability of the concrete construction methods makes up for any additional expense when it comes to initial building costs.

Why Choose Concrete

Both studies included nearby Towson, Maryland, and both studies show that the cost of concrete-based multi-family residential construction, including both insurance and related construction costs, is certainly competitive with that of wood frame construction and, in the case of insurance costs, significantly less expensive.

In addition, there are numerous other benefits to the use of concrete building materials (including pre-cast concrete, concrete masonry, and cast-in-place concrete). One of the most notable benefits has the greatest impact on insurance costs: concrete is non-combustible, dramatically reducing issues related to fire hazards and the after effects of fire-containment methods. Other key benefits are resistance to acts of vandalism and mold growth as well as the ability to suffer minimal damage from the outbreak of a fire in the building. Concrete is also far more resistant to degradation over time when compared to wood.

In short, concrete construction methods result in a safer, far more durable building that is more inexpensive to insure and very cost competitive to build when compared to wood framing. Fire safety and resistance issues alone should be enough to convince builders and architects to shift to concrete methods, especially considering numerous and devastating multi-family residence fires that have occurred in just the past year.

Contact Fizzano Brothers

Fizzano Brothers offers a complete line of masonry and hardscape building materials for all of your construction needs. In addition, our knowledgeable sales staff can answer any questions you have about our products, including those you might need for concrete-based construction. Consistency and quality have long been keywords in our company’s culture. Contact us today so that we can help you find durable, safe, high-quality concrete building materials to meet your construction needs.