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The Advantages of Building a Concrete Block / ICF House

Practicality and Appealing Architectural Styles Merge in Concrete Homes


I grew up in an area of the world whereas many as 20 tropical storms can hit the country in a year. I still remember the torrential downpours, the frightening winds, and the flooded streets. But within our home – located on the second floor of a concrete building ­­– all of us always felt safe. While some houses were battered by the rain and winds, with roofs and windows flying, we were sheltered in our “fortress” – warm, comfortable, and mostly unthreatened by the elements.

Perhaps memories of the durability of that home spurred my brother to build a concrete block house in the Mediterranean style – surrounded by native trees and shrubbery. During one particularly nasty storm, some of the trees fell to the ground – without inflicting any damage to the house – which withstood the gale winds and heavy rains.

While the house remained intact, an outdoor kitchen made mostly of wood and other materials was destroyed. It was fortunate that no one was in the kitchen or anywhere near its vicinity when disaster struck. When all the debris was cleared and the order restored to the ruined area, my brother built a new concrete block kitchen in place of the old one. 

One-story, four-bedroom Mediterranean-style house plan

This one-story, four-bedroom Mediterranean-style house plan – with concrete block exterior walls – is perfect for coastal living or areas where tropical storms are prevalent (Plan #107-1144).


Advantages of the Concrete Block / ICF Home

You don’t have to live in an area affected by typhoons and tornadoes to consider a concrete block or ICF (insulated concrete form) designed house plan. Wherever you are, these styles offer several advantages.

Concrete block designs use CMUs (concrete masonry units) as the primary material for construction. These units are made from high-strength concrete mixtures that make them durable and resistant to demanding weather conditions. Masonry is also a preferred finish for many architects and builders.

The concrete block design is popular in places with warm climates like Florida and other southern states. Because the CMUs slow down the heat transfer due to their thermal mass, the homes tend to stay cooler during the day in the hot summer weather. In addition to their energy-efficiency, concrete block homes are also fire resistant and long-lasting.  

2-story, 3-bedroom modern home showcases concrete exterior walls

This rendering of a two-story, three-bedroom modern home showcases the concrete exterior walls. The home is built on a small lot with covered front and rear porches, a sundeck, a home theater, and a Great Room perfect for gatherings (Plan #116-1016).


ICF homes, which have been increasingly on the rise since the 1990s, use insulating foam forms filled with concrete and sometimes steel reinforcement to form airtight, well-insulated walls. These structures are strong and durable, pest and fire-resistant, and tone down the street and other noise from the outside.

These qualities make homes built from ICF house plans attractive to contractors, builders, and potential homeowners.   

One-story, four-bedroom home with country touches

You can turn this rendering of a delightful ICF home plan into reality. The one-story, four-bedroom home with country touches has an appealing brick façade and features lots of space for a bonus room and a basement. (Plan # 132-1257)


You’ll find ICF-designed homes in almost every state. If you live in the Midwest or the Northeast with all the snow and cold weather, ICF house plans can reduce or eliminate cold drafts. In Florida, the Gulf Coast, and other states experiencing severe storms and hurricanes, ICF homes are ideal because they are wind-resistant. And, of course, on the West Coast, they offer protection from earthquakes and fires.  

Here are the overall benefits of concrete block / ICF-designed homes:

1.  Energy-efficiency, resulting in cost savings on bills

2.  Durability

3.  Protection from high winds, harsh weather conditions, and other forces of nature

4.  Safety, quiet, and comfort

5.  Insect resistance

With all of these advantages, it’s no surprise that concrete block / ICF designed home plans are back in the architectural picture. 


The Many Faces of Concrete Block / ICF Homes

From ancient Greece and Rome – and masterpieces of concrete construction like aqueducts and the dome of the Pantheon – the technique of using concrete to build homes came to the U.S. on a large scale in the 1800s.

Architectural experts note that the first home in the U.S. to be built entirely of concrete was on Staten Island, NY, in 1837. But it wasn’t until the early to the mid-1900s that concrete structures – offices and homes – started lining the U.S. landscape.   

While concrete block / ICF designed homes are practical and durable, it doesn’t mean that they are boring and unattractive. On the contrary, they are quite versatile.

A majority of the first concrete block homes were built in the Midwest through the 1920s, including some historic homes designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. You can work closely with your architect and builder to design and use exterior finishing materials to make your concrete home look like just about any architectural style.


Mediterranean/Spanish Style

If you love the red-tiled roofs, arches, and columns of the Mediterranean style, you have so many choices at your fingertips – from the unassuming to waterfront manors to the luxurious and castle-like. 

One-story, three-bedroom Mediterranean-style home with sturdy concrete exterior wall structure

Don’t be fooled by the “no-frills” look of this one-story, three-bedroom Mediterranean-style home with a sturdy concrete exterior wall structure. Open the door and walk into a spacious open floor plans design featuring a Great Room, den, home office, covered lanai, and a covered rear porch  (Plan #133-1029).


Beautiful Mediterranean-style waterfront manor  perfect for coastal areas  with 5 bedrooms, 4.5 baths

A beautiful Mediterranean-style waterfront manor – perfect for coastal areas – comes with five bedrooms, four-and-half baths, the signature red tile roof, arched windows, and a balcony. The exterior walls and driveway are concrete  (Plan # 107-1029).


Magical castle-like luxury Mediterranean home built using concrete exterior walls

Imagine yourself in this magical castle-like luxury Mediterranean home – again built using concrete exterior walls – going from balcony to balcony to bask in nature’s beauty. This three-story, the seven-bedroom residence features a formal entrance with galleries on both sides  (Plan #107-1035).



The sound of the ocean waves may be music to your ears – but when high winds and hurricanes approach, there’s nothing safer than a concrete block / ICF house as a Beachfront or Coastal home. 

One-story, four-bedroom coastal style plan of concrete block exterior construction

A one-story, four-bedroom coastal style plan of concrete block exterior construction is a picture of calm and tranquility. Tall columns anchor the covered porch, which opens into the dining and living rooms (Plan #107-1019).


Traditional House Plans

The classic and simple Traditional house plan has been called “America’s style.” It’s one of the most common styles built from coast to coast. These homes are often single-level structures with hip roofs and covered porches. 

Great-looking one-story Traditional home with attractive concrete exterior walls and covered porch

A great-looking one-story Traditional home with attractive concrete exterior walls and a covered porch comes with three bedrooms, two full baths, and a one-car garage (Plan #107-1204).


Modern House Plan

For the Modern house plan in your future, think clean lines, open living spaces, environmentally friendliness, and a mostly uncluttered look. 

Two-story, three-bedroom concrete / ICF house plan that has all the amenities of modern living

This two-story, three-bedroom concrete / ICF house plan has all the amenities of modern living: a theater, kitchen with an eating bar, outdoor living space with a waterfall pool, private outdoor garden, and rooftop observation deck (Plan #116-1015).


Isn’t it time for a new perspective on concrete homes? Throw away the misconceptions, and begin to see their versatility and attractive features.



Footnote: The lead (top) image in this article is a two-story, four-bedroom concrete block / ICF house plan with Southern and Contemporary touches. For more on the home, view: (Plan #175-1064)



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