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If you need "concrete" evidence that it's possible to build an environmentally friendly green home without sacrificing aesthetics or durability, then just take a look at this project. This stunning Tampa Bay, Fla., residence, built by Rokop General Contractors, headed by Joe Rokop, a LEED-accredited professional specializing in sustainable construction, features concrete from top to bottom and inside and out, from concrete roof tiles, to precast concrete countertops, sinks and stair treads, to stained concrete floors and patios. All the precast decorative concrete elements for the home and the stained concrete floor finishes were provided by Concrete-N-Counters.
"The owners wished to have a home built consistent with an 'institutional' quality standard -- one that would last for many decades in its current form," says Rokop, who developed the project in partnership with his brother, Robert, the primary architect. "We decided to use materials that would be aesthetically and functionally timeless. Healthful living, ease of maintenance, durability and spatial harmony were some of our design goals."
Rokop says that new high-end home construction in coastal Florida is predominantly concrete because of the potential for hurricane-force winds. Thus the exterior walls of this house are masonry block filled with solid concrete. Columns, balconies and tie beams are also poured concrete. Throughout the home's interior concrete was used extensively as well, both for functional and aesthetic reasons. "Since the owners favored a modern aesthetic which lends itself to green materials, concrete was a natural choice for them," says Rokop. "The first-floor concrete slab and the concrete counters throughout the house are extraordinarily complementary to the organic and minimalist theme of the home."
The exterior of the home, designed by Robert Rokop, AIA, mixes the modern with the traditional. The front balconies are cantilevered concrete supported by a poured second-level concrete floor. The roof is finished in concrete tiles. The exterior walls (both levels) are masonry block filled with concrete and have a smooth stucco finish. The staircase is a study in modernism, with floating precast concrete treads and glass and stainless steel railings. The 4-inch-thick treads have blockouts through their centers to accommodate steel framework that is bolted into the exterior concrete wall. The landing consists of four precast concrete treads that lock together on all edges to provide a seamless appearance.
The floors throughout the first floor of the home are concrete stained in a gray color with cast-in-place concrete baseboards to match. The floor was sealed with an impregnating sealer and densifier to improve durability and provide a low-gloss matte finish. The floor on the second level is covered with cork because of the material's sustainability and natural beauty. A round inlay of precast polished concrete strategically placed within the cork floor echoes the stained concrete floor visible below.
The wet bar, complete with a stainless steel undermount sink, is 3-inch-thick precast polished concrete, colored to match the medium-gray shade used for the kitchen countertops. Consistent with the rest of the home's interior design, the master bath features precast concrete vanity tops with integrated rectangular sinks, a concrete tub surround, and concrete shower walls. The elegant bone color for all the elements was achieved with iron-oxide pigments, and the surfaces were polished and sealed with impregnating sealers.
The floor is concrete as well, trowel applied over a wood subfloor and sloped to eliminate a curb around the shower. The concrete shower pan was cast in place to match the floor, and the shower walls and ceiling are precast 1-inch-thick polished concrete panels. Bolts cast into the concrete ceiling panels attach to the rafters. The tub in the master bath is an undermount design accented by polished precast concrete panels and a concrete deck. The powder room door is surrounded by a concrete feature wall that extends two stories (20 feet) high. The concrete was hand troweled in three coats over fiber-cement backerboard, resulting in a textured, stucco-like finish. The color is a medium gray with dark gray highlights achieved by over-troweling with a microtopping.
The highlight of the outdoor entertaining area is a swimming pool with an overflow edge so the water level is flush with a stained concrete deck. The concrete pool liner incorporates glass-bead aggregate that, together with the overflow edge design, give the pool a mirror-like appearance. The exterior patios and pool deck are stained and sealed to match the interior floors. The outdoor kitchen has precast polished concrete countertops 2 inches thick.
The house, completed in 2009, was built in an established neighborhood among old and, in some cases, very traditional homes. "Community connectivity was an important consideration," says Rokop. "There were logistical challenges to build the home on a narrow lot, and design challenges to introduce modern architecture into such an established and conservative community. Gauging from the positive reaction, we were quite successful on both counts."
Owner - The Hawthorne Residence, Tampa, FL
Architect/Designer - Robert Rokop AIA, Longboat Key, FL
General Contractor - Rokop General Contracting, Inc., Tampa, FL
Concrete Contractor - Concrete-N-Counters, Tampa, FL