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Builders find an angle.

Carving a niche in the residential construction market has become quite a challenge. As consumers have grown to expect a standard level of value, the building industry has evolved into a tedious game of follow the leader - sacrificing ingenuity for the sake of safe selling. But maintaining a level of service comparable to your competitors doesn't allow for much growth. In fact, it leaves most businesses stagnant.

To truly grow, builders have to offer something new - and better - to their buyers. Past NAHB president Martin Perlman, and his son Andrew, wanted their Houston-based company, A. Lexis Homes, to do just that. Their project, the Concrete Concepts Home, is the first all-concrete poured-in-place home built in the Houston metropolitan area.

The home, a 5,000 square-foot structure with high-mass, insulated above-grade concrete walls, incorporates flowing spaces with quiet energy efficiency. The key to that efficiency lies in the insulating concrete forms (ICFs) - interlocking polystyrene hollow blocks, stacked in the shape of walls and then filled with steel reinforcing bar and flowable concrete. The formwork used in the Concrete Concepts Home was the AAB Building System.

Unlike traditional concrete forms, the foam blocks used in this type of home stay in place to become part of the wall assembly, providing built-in insulation. Windows, doors, floor, roof and mechanical systems are easily installed. Then the interiors are completed just like a stick-built home.

The intrinsic benefits of concrete and ICF construction are accompanied in the Concrete Concepts Home by a design that clearly focuses on the sophisticated home buyer - solid and enduring, yet changeable to meet evolving multi-generational family needs.

"Today, the home provides room to entertain, relax and create," says Dan Mistick of the Portland Cement Association. "Tomorrow, it will suit the family's need for private spaces with a variety of separate retreats."

These characteristics have convinced the Perlmans that ICFs are the hottest alternative construction method to come down the road in years, and has also provided them with an opportunity to communicate that to potential home buyers.

"We think the new concrete technology is very promising as a marketing tool as well as a way to build homes. We have had a lot of interest both from the industry and from prospective customers," Andrew Perlman says.

"I'm very excited about the technology. Insulating concrete forms sound new and complicated - and I was concerned about what the cost would be. But it's simple, and a very cost-effective way to build! The Concrete Concepts Home is the second fastest house I've ever built, and the first was half its size."

Andrew attributes the speed of construction to the ICF system itself. "You are able to eliminate a lot of steps," he says. "And as far as working with our subs, I had a short meeting with each - about 30 to 90 minutes or so - to explain how their systems would go into this house. Once they were shown, it was a piece of cake." The architect, Bill Gotsdiner, of Gotsdiner Architects in Houston, agrees the transition to ICFs was not difficult. "When we got started, we weren't certain what to expect, but I was very pleased with the ease of construction and common-sense approach of the ICF system," Gotsdiner says. "It's a very easy system to get accustomed to, and we would use it readily again."
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Title Annotation:A. Lexis Homes' Concrete Concepts Home
Publication:Builder
Date:Feb 1, 1996
Words:554
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