The gray, honed look of cast concrete is a perennial favorite among modernist architects and builders, but achieving that surface the conventional way is often not practical and can be very expensive. Washington, D.C.–based KUBE Architecture has found another material that does the trick: Viroc.

“It’s a monolithic composite board that is made from wood chips and cement,” says Richard Loosle-Ortega, a principal at the firm. “It’s from Portugal and has been used under sheathing for exterior cladding.”

Ideal for use in rough construction and in architectural finish applications, the 4-by-8-panels are highly resistant to fire, humidity, climate variations, and fungus. The product is also low maintenance and durable. “It feels smooth and is much more attractive than cement backerboard, but it has a similar quality,” says Janet Bloomberg, KUBE’s other principal. “It’s attractive, smooth, sustainable, and a fraction of the cost of cast concrete.”

KUBE has used the product in a number of ways for interior and exterior applications, such as stair landings with built-in storage, bath walls, finished floors, and exterior rainscreens. “I once made a decision on site to use it on every surface in a dining room,” Bloomberg says. Located in a Washington row house, the small breakfast room is clad with Viroc inside and out.

No matter the use, the duo says Viroc has become an easy way to create a subtle modernist look in the firm’s projects, especially when the panels are installed as is with exposed fasteners. Says Bloomberg, “We believe in using materials for what they are.”

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Washington, DC.