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Lexington Commercial and Residential Projects Rising

lexington-logoThe improvement of the economy has benefited the construction industry, especially in Lexington, Ky. An article in The Lane Report states that commercial and residential projects in the second-largest city in the state are on the rise, giving way to more jobs.

Following are eight reasons why Lexington construction projects are increasing.

  1. Decreasing unemployment rate. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate fell from 9.3 in 2009 to 4.5 in 2016.
  2. The completion of the downtown CentrePoint project.
  3. Overall economic rebound.
  4. Population growth. According to the United States Census Bureau, Lexington’s population grew approximately 18,000.
  5. Enrollment at the University of Kentucky has gone up significantly. According to the University of Kentucky, enrollment has increased from 29,000 in 2013 to more than 30,131 in 2015.
  6. Completion of the Summit at Fritz Farm, the largest mixed-used development in city’s history.
  7. Increase in number of permits issued for single-family homes. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 687 single-family home permits were issued in 2014, up from 513 in 2011.
  8. Growth in apartment buildings due to higher lot prices. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, permits for multifamily homes with five or more units increased from 187 in 2013 to 506 in 2014.

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Celblox has created four projects in Kentucky using insulated concrete forms (ICFs). For more information regarding commercial and residential development in Kentucky as they relate to ICFs, please contact Craig Hutchison at CHutchison@cellox.com.

Concrete Waterproofing

Introduction

concreteconcreteWater is an essential part of concrete production, pouring and curing. Once the water has helped with those roles, it is no longer helpful to concrete because cured concrete is porous and prone to cracking, which causes it to be vulnerable to water infiltration.

A method for protecting concrete structures from water damage is to make the concrete waterproof. Waterproof concrete is different than coating, sealing or wrapping it to resist water. This method makes the concrete less permeable with admixtures, both Permeability Reducing Admixtures for Non-Hydrostatic conditions (PRANs) and Permeability Reducing Admixtures for Hydrostatic conditions (PRAHs).

Before we talk about the advantages of integral waterproofing, it is important to note that waterproof concrete by itself does not deliver waterproof construction. Water can still go around concrete and penetrate joints, so these entry points will still need attention.

Integral waterproofing

PRANs and PRAHs are also referred to as integral waterproofing. Integral waterproofing has advantages over other methods of waterproofing because it can’t be torn or damaged during backfill. It also won’t delaminate, decompose or wear out, protecting the concrete and reducing long-term maintenance costs. Since it’s integral to the concrete itself, there are no issues with installation and other waterproofing installation problems are eliminated.

PRAH technology blocks water from entering concrete on all sides and it greatly decreases the permeability of the concrete, extending the service life. When moisture is blocked, the rebar within the concrete does not corrode, and the PRAH technology becomes part of the concrete matrix. As the concrete continues to hydrate over time, the admixture crystals grow when they come in contact with water, and they self-seal hairline cracks up to .5 millimeters and damp spots of all diameters.

According to Alain Lok of Kryton International, integral waterproofing of concrete is cost effective. Kryton’s branded material, Krystol Internal Membrane (KIM), ranges from $60 to $80 per cubic yard of concrete depending on the re-seller. The additional cost can be offset by the elimination of typical exterior membranes and the labor required attaching them, which also reduces overall construction time.

Conclusion

PRAHs should be used in below-grade concrete construction. With insulating concrete form (ICF) construction, integral waterproofing can make construction even better.

ICFs in Extreme Weather

hurricane_hermineHurricane Hermine, the most recent hurricane to hit the United States, is a good reminder of how damaging storms can be for homeowners. With wind speeds of 80 mph, the hurricane can put many families in life-threatening situations and property at risk. While hurricanes cannot be prevented, homeowners can better resist the weather and prevent damage to their homes by building concrete homes with insulating concrete forms (ICFs).

ICFs are a building material used in the construction of the exterior walls of a house both below and above grade. Filled with concrete, the walls increase the strength of a house and withstand weather that threatens a family’s safety. Concrete homes built using ICFs are better able to take on the elements than wood-frame homes.

Here are two reasons:

Resist strong winds
ICFs will resist winds of up to 250 mph. That means they can stand up to hurricanes and tornadoes. In addition, ICFs will resist debris flying at 150 mph. Flying debris is the most dangerous aspect of tornado-force winds.

Keep moisture out
The heavy rain that accompanies hurricanes and tornadoes doesn’t affect the structural concrete core of an ICF wall. Since the material from which ICFs are made is hygroscopic and vapor permeable, relative humidity levels are kept low enough that it’s not possible to reach the level of relative humidity where mold can begin to grow.

Consider building your new home with ICFs and concrete. There is no safer way to build.

Preparing Your Home for Fall

Fall is just around the corner, and there is no better time to start preparing your home for fall homethe winter ahead. As the temperature outside starts to drop, use the last weeks of summer to catch up on home maintenance before it gets too cold outside.

Stick-frame homes are more susceptible to drafts and hot/cold weather than other materials. Use these three weather-proofing tips to help protect your home.

Update your windows and doors
Sealing gaps around window and door frames can cut your winter heating bill by 10 to 15 percent. Search for gaps larger than 1/8 inch and patch these spots with caulk or weather stripping. Also, install storm windows, which will protect and insulate your home during cold temperatures.

Purchase a water heater insulating blanket
A water heater insulating blanket is an affordable, easy way to save energy during the winter. A properly fitted blanket can reduce up to 40 percent of the heat that is lost through the sides of a typical water heater. Measure the circumference of your water heater and purchase a thicker blanket to preserve the optimal amount of heat.

Level your gutters
Before the weather gets too cold, make sure to take the ladder and check your gutters. If they aren’t pitched at the correct angle, they can overflow during a storm, causing major leaks and flooding of your home.
 

Risk Mitigation in Construction

Introductionchecklist

Good risk management is imperative in construction to avoid delays, budget overruns and claims. Those involved in building construction would benefit from clients, designers and governmental agencies working together from feasibility forward to address potential risks effectively before they occur.

Contractors and sub-contractors should be included early in the process so that they can make sound preparations for executing safely, efficiently and in a high quality manner to deliver a project that meets the client’s expectations.

Five categories of risk

  1. Time - A tight time schedule is extremely significant in all types of construction. Due to the fact that insulating concrete forms are a low risk building material that can be built faster than conventional exterior wall assemblies, they play a positive role in the mitigation of tight project schedule risk.
  2. Cost - Although it is perceived that ICF/concrete exterior wall construction can be more expensive than other construction types, the reduction in build time using ICFs drives cost offsets like faster completions, which can provide earlier revenue or reduced construction loan interest costs.
  3. Quality - The risk of poor performance in a finished building can be mitigated by ICF/concrete construction due to its simple assembly and superior performance in energy efficiency, comfort, health and safety after the structure has been completed.
  4. Safety - Jobsite safety is improved with the use of ICFs due to their light weight. Since EPS is 98 percent air, moving ICFs around on a job site is easy work, especially for more mature laborers. Construction with insulating concrete forms may help reduce workers’ compensation claims and general insurance expense, most importantly, they may prevent injury to people working on the project site.
  5. Environmental sustainability – With many people thinking about being green, ICFs have a major appeal with the potential for reducing energy to heat and cool the building. The reduced operating energy, reduction of CO2, long service life and the use of local and recycled materials make ICF construction environmentally beneficial.

Six Most Important IECC Building Codes Changes

Introductionholmes-houses-apartment-condominium-condo-building-window-chimney-door-stairs-elevator-free-stock-vector-set-2

As many developers, architects and home builders know, tenant and consumer demand for energy cost savings continues to grow. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, Wisconsin will adopt the 2015 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) beginning in 2017.

Currently, Illinois is the only other Midwest state to have adopted the 2015 IECC code, as many of the states still have the 2012 or 2009 versions.

Changes in 2015 IECC code

Following are six major changes found in the 2015 IECC code for new home construction that builders should notice:

  1. Energy Rating Index (ERI) compliance path: Builders now have the option of meeting a target ERI score through a wide range of performance options to demonstrate compliance.
  2. Specify required inspections: Builders now need to specify when the inspection should be done and what should be inspected.
  3. Vertical access doors: Vertical doors do not have to be insulated to the same level as the surrounding wall, as long as they meet the fenestration U-factor requirements.
  4. Combustion closets: With rooms that contain fuel burning appliances, the appliance and combustion air opening should be located outside the building thermal envelope or enclosed in a room, isolated from inside the thermal envelope.
  5. Building envelope air leakage testing changes: Requires that one of the two ASTM standards (ASTM E 779 or ASTM E 1827) be followed when doing an air leakage test.
  6. Duct insulation: Requirements depend on location and the diameter of the duct.

Conclusion

For more information on Wisconsin building code requirements, please contact Laurie Dischler at ldischler@cellox.com
 

How ICFs Help Mitigate Construction Labor Shortages

Introductionconstruction

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Associated General Contractors of America, the construction industry lost 20,000 jobs between April and May. The resulting decline of skilled labor not only affects future construction but also buildings that have already began construction.


Four ways building with ICFs can help:


1. Projects can be completed with a small crew of installers. This eliminates the need for scheduling multiple trades and materials in the proper sequence, waiting for them to arrive and complete their work before other aspects of the job can be started.

2. ICF installation is quick to learn. Specialized skills are not required to accurately install ICFs, and this benefits tradespeople who have previously worked in framing or in other forms of wall construction.

3. ICFs can extend your building season. Construction can be completed in inclement weather including harsh winter weather without tenting and heating expenses that would stop traditional construction.

4. Reduced amount of labor hours. Many ICFs are very light and easily stackable, allowing the project to be completed more quickly. For example, on commercial projects such as hotels or senior living facilities with multiple stories, between six to eight weeks of construction time can be shaved off, significantly reducing the need for workers.

A Look at ICFs and the Real Estate Market

house 1

According to the National Association of Realtors [http://realtormag.realtor.org/daily-news/2015/12/02/big-expectations-for-housing-in-2016], this year’s residential housing market is predicted to increase 12 percent, with new home sales growing 16 percent. With the rise in the housing market comes the opportunity for innovative building practices, including new residential construction.

“ICFs are being used more and more in the residential home market,” Madison, Wis.–based real estate agent Charlie Wills said. “One thing that really sets them apart from other building structures is how flexible and sustainable the product is.”

ICFs are a green building material, meaning the construction and lifetime of your home assures the healthiest possible effect on the environment. Since this construction process contributes to an energy-efficient home, a new-home builder’s utility costs can be up to 50 percent less than average.

“Especially for consumers in Madison, they’re people looking for alternative building sources with less maintenance and high energy-efficiency returns,” Wills said. “I think ICFs are very intriguing.”

CBS Money Watch reported [http://www.cbsnews.com/news/december-housing-starts-slip-but-2015-ends-strong/] that homebuilders broke ground on 1.1 million properties last year, which is an increase of 10.8 percent from the recession.

“Where we see ICFs the most is recreational spaces in houses, including a room built underneath the garage or half-court basketball,” Wills said. “When the owners don’t want to add-on to the house, but build something below the home, they go the ICF route.”

Wills also said that generally, a house built using ICFs is easier to sell, because in addition to the aforementioned benefits, it’s also stronger than wood-framed homes and nearly sound proof.
 

The Importance of HVAC Sizing and Design in Residential ICF Construction

Introduction
ICF manufacturers claim that when a home’s exterior envelope is built with insulating concrete forms and concrete, and when the HVAC system is properly sized and designed, the initial investment in the HVAC system can be between 16 percent and 40 percent less than it may be with traditional wood frame or steel stud construction.

How to determine proper size and design of HVAC system
1. The construction of the exterior envelope: Some companies will only complete an energy analysis if the exterior of the house is insulated with foam (e.g. insulated concrete forms). The analysis includes the exact tonnage required of the heating and cooling system, a CFM (velocity in cubic feet per minute) breakdown by room and a calculation of a guaranteed/no greater than amount of money that will be spent on utilities for the first two years following installation.

If the utility bill is higher than it forecasted, the company will pay the homeowner the difference between its calculation and the actual heating, cooling and hot water utility bill as long as the HVAC system was installed according to its design.

2. The requirements of the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system: Most residential HVAC equipment installations are not designed but “selected” based on square foot of floor space “rule of thumb” load tables. [see accompanying graph]

3. The air distribution and duct design: The house with higher levels of insulation, more energy-efficient windows, reduced air infiltration and controlled mechanical ventilation has a lower load, and subsequently less air volume is needed to condition the space. ICFs need less mechanical equipment compared to standard exterior envelope construction because they fit more tightly and are more insulated. Also, the well-designed air distribution systems help home residents with zero drafts or excessive noise. Duct size is selected by knowing the amount of air that must pass through. This volume is affected by the required heating and cooling loads, the friction loss in the ducts and the average velocity of the air moving through them.

Conclusion
Contractors of an ICF home will deliver the home owner an energy-efficient, cost-effective, comfortable living space if the design of the HVAC system follows the aforementioned statements. Not only will the homeowner’s monthly utility costs be less, but the “first cost” of the investment the home owner makes will be reduced as well.
 

Building a Better Hotel

Introduction

A hotel development cost survey by Hospitality Valuation Services (HVS) indicated that construction of limited, select-service and extended–stay hotels has led the industry. Compared to full-service hotels, these hotels typically have a less complex and shorter construction process and more profitable operating performance, which attract developers, brands, operators and lenders.

On a per room basis, hard construction and site improvements contribute to 66 percent of the costs, making the right choice of building material extremely important. With insulating concrete forms (ICFs) gaining market share in the hotel construction industry, hotel owners are recognizing they meet many needs.

Insulating Concrete Forms (ICFs)

With construction and operating costs so important to the success of hotel owners, and with these costs partially determining whether or not financing will be made available to the developer, more of these types of properties are being built with insulating concrete forms. That’s because ICF construction is cost competitive with traditional wood and steel framing.

The long-lasting building materials also can be installed quickly, and unlike other traditional methods, they do not stop construction in inclement weather, including sub-zero temperatures. Installers consolidate the trades needed on a project as they build the walls and pour the concrete themselves.

ICFs contain plastic fastening strips, which eliminate the need for wood, steel framing or furring strips, so framing crews are replaced by the ICF installer for the exterior walls. ICFs are the continuous insulation required to reduce the cost of operating the facility’s utilities, both heating and cooling. Using ICFs allows developers to get to revenue more quickly, which also reduces the financing cost of the facility.

Benefits of ICFs in hotels

Well-known national brands such as Comfort Inn, Holiday Inn, Hilton Garden Inn and Candlewood Suites have building plans that use ICFs, not only for exterior envelopes but also for demising walls, stairwells and elevator shafts.

ICFs address both the cost and the customer satisfaction required by successful hotel operators. The faster a hotel can open, the sooner its owners can start generating revenue. Meanwhile, hotel guests can enjoy quiet rooms due to the sound attenuation ICFs provide. ICFs also provide a superior fire rating, energy efficiency and thermal comfort.
 

Custom Home Building: Stick-Framing vs. Insulating Concrete Forms

houseIntroduction

What are the best types of homes? The answer is dependent on the materials you choose for construction, and this decision has bigger implications than the typical new home buyer and custom home builder may realize. Thus, it is important to be familiar with and educated about popular home building materials and methods.

Stick-built homes

These homes use wood to create the exterior walls of a home. According to the National Association of Home Builders Research Center, stick-built homes account for more than 90 percent of all new homes built in the United States each year.

The main benefit of stick-built homes may be the initial cost savings. However, wood is not strong in high winds, burns easily and it is vulnerable to insects and rodents that nest or eat away at the structure. It also absorbs moisture, which can create mold and decay.

In addition, wood is not an insulator because cold air bridges through it to the inside and warm air bridges through it to the outside. Wood isn't continuous, either, meaning there are many places where air infiltrates a wood structure, especially at the corners and wall interfaces.

Insulating Concrete Forms (ICFs)

ICFs are building blocks made from closed cell polystyrene rigid foam. Once ICFs are stacked together, they are filled with steel reinforcing rods and concrete. ICF homes can withstand natural disasters and fires, resist moisture infiltration, prevent air infiltration and create a secure, quiet and healthy living environment.

The cost of an ICF built home can be 0.5-4 percent more overall than a stick-built home. However, the financial benefit of homes built with ICFs is reduced monthly living expenses. That’s because ICF construction reduces heating and cooling costs by 50-70 percent, according to ICF Builder Magazine. Also, homeowners’ insurance premiums can be less expensive, and the upfront investment in HVAC systems is typically reduced by up to 20 percent.

For these reasons and many others, ICF construction is growing at an estimated rate of 20 percent annually and is slowly becoming known as the best home building method.

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