The Masonry Framed Homes Initiative
Homebuyers across the nation are up against one of the tightest housing markets in modern history with home prices up 25%+ over the past year.
With that, many are looking to new construction as an alternative but are constrained by scarcity of a formerly plentiful and cheap commodity: lumber. The Southeast Masonry Concrete Association (SCMA) has an answer for potential home builders: concrete block.
For better or worse, wood framing remains the dominant construction method for single-family homes in the U.S., according to National Association of Home Builder’s analysis of Census Bureau data. For 2020 completions, 90% of new homes were wood framed. Another 10% were masonry framed homes. Yet, block masonry offers consumers a myriad of benefits, including resiliency in the face of extreme weather like hurricanes, while also keeping design aesthetics that is a must-have when it comes to residential construction.
The SCMA’s goal is to ensure consumers are educated when building or buying their next home. Surprisingly, masonry homes have been around for years with limited consumer awareness, even though over 1 billion concrete masonry units are made by local producers every year to support their local residential markets. This helps create local jobs as well.
to the National Home Builders Association, lumber prices have skyrocketed by
more than 300% since April 2020, which threatens housing affordability across
the country. With wood prices being a huge problem for homeowners, the SCMA is
educating local homeowners about cost-effective alternatives to wood
“Most consumers just don’t know what options are available to them. Most builders are comfortable with wood and do not understand how to build with masonry. Our education efforts are starting to pay off as we are seeing the masonry residential markets gain traction,” said SCMA President, James Cain. “Masonry framed homes increased from 59,000 in 2018 to 86,000 in 2019, then to 94,000 in 2020 across the United States. There is a projected 110,000 for 2021. That’s an 86 percent increase in demand in just four years.”
The SCMA continues to work on educating many layers in the building process from homeowners, general contractors, masonry contractors to local building code officials.
SCMA leadership is passionate about providing alternatives to homeowners. “I built houses in the past and never knew about alternatives. This was before I was in the masonry industry. I was like so many other consumers – unaware of my options when it comes to building materials,” said Cain. “It comes down to understanding alternatives while also factoring in the cost, safety, and other tangible benefits to masonry construction. Most consumers don’t know that masonry is locally sourced, readily available, mold resistant, will lower your heating/cooling by 20% and your overall homeowner’s insurance costs by 25%. But more importantly, it is fire resistant, making it a safer building product. It’s a win-win solution for homeowners.”
The SCMA has found educating the consumer on alternatives makes them consider other areas than just cost. For example, masonry does not burn and, in turn, increases the chance of surviving a house fire. Concrete block provides structural integrity which is critically important against tornadoes, hurricanes, and other extreme events.
Cain also mentioned a new program that concrete masonry producers are considering—a national checkoff that would allow block producers from around the country to work together to fund promotion, research and more—all to advance concrete masonry and build stronger, more resilient communities. “The future of the masonry framed home program nationwide has a tremendous growth opportunity with a national checkoff program. This program will generate millions of dollars for research at local universities while educating business owners, developers, architects and, most importantly, promoting safer home construction to local consumers. It is all about helping local homeowners and communities to make the best, most informed decision. They deserve to know there are options for their families.”
Southeast Concrete Masonry Association (SCMA) represents masonry producers, and aggregate partners, cement partners and suppliers with a common vision to create more resilient communities. We believe masonry contributes heavily to safer homes, buildings, and communities. Our focus is on creating proactive education collaboration between architects, engineers, designers, general contractors, owners, developers, and university students that will result in reducing our carbon footprint, loss of life from fires, loss of property from poorly built structures to ultimately safer communities for all families. Learn more at https://scmaonline.org.