07/27/11 — New home design will be more energy efficient and much stronger

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New home design will be more energy efficient and much stronger

By Dennis Hill
Published in News on July 27, 2011 1:46 PM

A new type of building construction that not only provides better insulation and improved resistance to high winds, but is also more environmentally friendly has reached Wayne County.

A home constructed of insulated concrete forms is going up in Hadley Acres subdivision off South Beston Road. Contractor Sam Sasser, president of Construction Managers Inc., said the finished home will look like any other stick-built home, but with walls made from the insulated concrete forms, it will be far more energy efficient as well as able to withstand winds well in excess of 250 mph.

In the wake of this spring's devastating tornadoes and in the middle of a heat wave that has air conditioners running around the clock, such construction should appeal to many home builders, he said.

The structure is made of pre-manufactured rigid foam blocks filled with steel reinforcing and poured solid with concrete. Homes built with such forms use about 40 percent less energy to heat and 40 percent less to cool, Sasser said. Also, the walls reduce the outdoor noise that can be heard inside and has vastly increased fire resistance.

Contractors from as far away as Texas and Florida were in Wayne County to watch as workers put the forms together, much like huge Lego blocks.

The technology is not brand new having been used for several decades across the country. But this is the first time it has been used in Wayne County, Sasser said. Not only is the house stronger but it also takes less time to build and has much less waste material leftover, he noted.

Sasser said that one reason the new type of construction has yet to catch on in the Wayne area is simply folks' resistance to change.

"You can't stay in that same box all your life," Sasser said. "We've always been quality oriented and this is right down our alley. The bottom line is, this is the best quality home you can build today for the money."

Sasser said that after the storms that damaged Greene County earlier this year he began to think more about the insulated concrete form way of building.

"I thought to myself, 'We've got to build something better,'" he said.

Dave Shuler, the project manager, agreed that the reason the insulated concrete form technology is still new to Wayne is simply because people are reluctant to change.

"It's a direct reflection on how hard it is to get people to change," he said.

Building "green" has a number of side benefits, said Victor Keller, a field sales representative of ARXX, which was one of the first companies to make the forms. They are made of polystyrene. Combined with a concrete middle, the double wall of forms gives a house or other building increased structural integrity, he said.

"It's a solid concrete composition that becomes a very stable thermal mass and is very resistant to temperature swings," Keller said.

Another benefit is how quickly a building can be built. Only two days after laying down the footing for the house, the walls were already going up, with the concrete expected to be poured the same week. The technique requires less labor and less skilled labor, Keller noted, but with a more structurally sound house as the result. There is also far less wasted material that would otherwise end up in a landfill.

Because of its superior resistance to high wind, insulated concrete construction is especially well-suited to coast areas, Keller said. He said that at present, insulated concrete construction is about half residential and half commercial. Because of its stability, it is also well-suited for fire houses, police stations and other public buildings that need to withstand hurricane-type winds, he said. Earlier this year, a five-story insulated concrete form dormitory was erected at North Carolina Central University, he said.

Keller emphasized that the new house would look like any other house on the block. Any finish can be put over the structure -- wood, brick, vinyl siding, stucco.

"Once its finished, it looks like any other home," Keller said. "It's all in the structured core of that wall."

For Keller, the insulated concrete form technique not only assures him that he is helping build a solid home. "I feel like I'm doing something good for the environment," he said.