Building with concrete is an entirely different animal than building a wood-framed house. For starters, you can see in the photos here how laying the concrete blocks and cementing them together obviously takes a great deal of labor, precision and additional bracing. When the architect throws in details such as arched openings and curves, it gets even trickier. Here, the contractor has had to create wood forms and pour the concrete in place to create the arched openings you see throughout this home.
So why build with concrete? For starters, it is stronger and more durable than wood. This home is near the cost and the owners wanted something that they felt would stand up to even the toughest weather conditions.
Second, concrete allows you to create a smooth stucco finish that you just cannot get with a wood exterior. Stucco may be applied directly to the concrete block to give it an Old World style finish, almost paper smooth. In contrast, when stucco is applied to wood, the wood can expand and contract at different rates than the stucco finish creating cracks. Thus, the stucco has to be applied to a mesh that rests between the wood framing and the stucco exterior. This mesh does not allow for a smooth finish and presents the additional risks of allowing water and moisture intrusion between the wood framing and stucco exterior. When stucco is applied directly to concrete, there is no risk of water getting between the two and the two products work well with one another, forming rare hairline cracks and seams.
This is not to say that you cannot have a good stucco system over wood. Rather, it is when the budget allows for it, stucco over concrete is preferable to stucco over wood.
This home certainly has a long way to go before completion. I’ll try to keep everyone up to date as it moves along!