HABITAT FOR HUMANITY HAS STUMBLED on a system that could help build better homes: a carbon fiber–reinforced precast concrete panel.

The Westchester County, N.Y., chapter of the group recently broke ground on four 1,800-square-foot duplex homes using CarbonCast lightweight panels, and it feels that the system has real potential.

“The carbon replaces rebar so you don't use as much concrete, but the panels are insulated,” says Jim Killoran, executive director of Habitat Westchester County. “There is also less maintenance cost for the homeowner, and the panels are lightweight, so they go up easier and quicker.”

CarbonCast is the product of a partnership between precast manufacturers Oldcastle Precast and AltusGroup.

The companies say CarbonCast creates a durable shell; resists insects and mold; buffers from street noise; and delivers R-24 exterior walls.

CarbonCast costs about the same as regular concrete, Killoran says, but it has the insulation included and installs fast. Demand could lower price, he adds. Habitat has plans to build 25 more homes with the panels.