In Union Beach, N.J., the Sochacki family’s story of how they survived Hurricane Sandy is a vital reminder that concrete is disaster-resilient.

As evening approached on Oct. 29, 2012, the family took refuge in a relative’s reinforced concrete house while the deadly hurricane powered through the U.S. Eastern seaboard. They watched as their 75-year-old wood-frame bungalow, located only a dozen or so feet away, was torn apart by violent ocean waves. Their cars were washed away. The entire town was destroyed. But the concrete home remained standing—and with little damage.

The extended family had built the three-story concrete home seven years earlier, choosing concrete as the building material to save money on energy and maintenance. They never imagined that the house also would one day save their lives.

Insulating concrete forms (ICFs) were used to construct the home for two main reasons:

  • Energy efficiency. The thermal mass and insulation of ICF construction mean less energy is used for heating and cooling, resulting in a reduced carbon footprint and less money spent on energy costs.
  • Fast, easy construction. The large foam blocks are installed similar to masonry construction and stay in place after concrete is poured to serve as wall insulation.

What ended up being most important for the Sochacki family is that this type of construction also produces strong, durable walls that meet current coastal standards for disaster resistance and safety. Concrete wall, floor and roof systems offer an unsurpassed combination of structural strength and wind resistance.

If every home in Union Beach was made of reinforced concrete, the entire community may have weathered the devastating storm with minimal impact. For more on the Sochacki family home, watch the Portland Cement Association video, Hurricane Sandy: A Story of Survival.