Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Post-Sandy Flood Maps Come With Big Changes

FEMA is releasing new post-Sandy flood maps.

Technically known as Advisory Base Flood Elevations (ABFE), these are updated estimates of the water levels associated with a flood event that has a 1% chance of being equaled or exceeded in a given year (the notorious 100 year flood). These maps are being released to the municipalities and the municipalities will likely accept them and incorporate them into their code.

Closing the Breach at Mantoloking, NJ
(Click to enlarge)
They’re going to show higher elevations than those on the current maps. They’re also going to show coastal flood areas extending further inland than those on the current maps. They’re including re-drawn AdvisoryZones, areas of structurally damaging wave action and Hurricane Sandy high water marks.

FEMA began releasing the ABFEs for New Jersey’s inland counties last week. Those for the shore counties are coming out this week, and New York City and Westchester’s new ABFEs will be released next week (12/17/2012). FEMA has not yet decided if Long Island’s maps need to be updated, but the devastation we saw in Amityville alone would tend to imply they do.

A complete re-study of the New York and New Jersey coastline was already in process when Sandy hit. The new maps were scheduled to be released in Mid-2013, but recent events compelled FEMA to put out these advisories in advance of the official release so that intelligent re-building can get underway.

Between the new ABFE flood maps and the ramifications of the Biggert-Waters bill, it’s clear that homeowners in the affected areas need to take some action or they stand to find flood insurance premiums going through the roof.

Biggert-Waters is the law that reauthorized the National Flood Insurance Program. It was signed in July 2012 and makes a lot of changes. For instance, subsidies will be phased out for many building types other than primary residences. Even primary residences that have incurred excessive losses in the past will lose the subsidy.

Under Biggert-Waters, rates are also going up if there’s a change of ownership, a lapse in coverage, substantial improvements or -get this- “a mapped change in flood risk.”

Houses on left were properly elevated and substantially
undamaged. Houses on the right were not so lucky.
Building owners should evaluate actions they can take to reduce that risk. Not just because the new rates will reflect the full flood risk of the insured properties, but in order to avoid the heartbreak of being wiped out by another flood.

FEMA recommends strategies to reduce future losses. One of the best is to raise your building above the minimum required elevation. Generally, the higher the building is over the minimum required elevation, the lower the premiums and the lower your flood risk. 
That just makes sense. And it’s not as complicated as it seems.  

If you’re covered under the National Flood Insurance Program and have damage valued at 50% or more of the pre-market value of the house, you may be able to get $30,000 towards the cost of elevating the house. It’s called an ICCClaim. If your damage is less than 50%, there are other scenarios and programs that may be able to help you cover the cost.

The actual process of elevating the structure is usually pretty straightforward. Your contractor will pierce the existing foundation and slip steel girders under the floor joists. Hydraulic jacks are then used to raise the building up off the foundation.

Concrete block foundation washed
away  by Sandy's storm surge
If your existing foundation is damaged or made from concrete block, your contractor should remove it and replaced with a cast in place concrete foundation. Polycrete ICFs are a very fast, economical way to retrofit a cast in place foundation on an existing structure.

Different categories of flood advisory zones call for different types of foundations, so bear in mind that you’ll need to check with a structural engineer and your local building officials to determine what sort of new foundation is required for your structure.

We have a list of qualified architects and structural engineers who can advise you on the proper foundation for your building, and we also have a list of recommended, licensed contractors who can handle the job. 

Depending on your particular circumstances, it's very likely you can have your structure elevated and new foundation formed in the next several weeks. In many cases, Polycrete foundations can be poured right through the winter. 

Please call or email us to get started, and don't forget, for every square foot of Polycrete ICFs sold in the region through the end of 2013, we're contributing to New York and New Jersey's rebuilding funds.  

     Richmond, VA  •  Bridgewater, NJ   •  Amityville, NY  



Monday, November 19, 2012

Hurricane Sandy Relief Report

A lifetime's worth of belongings reduced to a pile of trash
At first Mike said he really didn’t need any help. He said he had things under control, and they could handle the job themselves, but thanks anyway.  

So the volunteer dispatcher sent us down the street to see another guy who had steadfastly resisted taking any aid until the magnitude of the mess had pretty much worn him out.

The second guy had the sheetrock and insulation stripped from most of his basement and first floor and just needed some help shoveling the last of the debris from the basement. He was alone in the house and tired. You could tell that it had been a nice house. This was a man who was used to taking care of himself or opening his wallet and paying for what he got. He was a little embarrassed taking something for nothing and kept awkwardly offering us water as we shoveled and bagged.

When we finished that job and went back on the street, we learned through the grapevine that Mike – the guy who didn’t need any help - was a Con Edison worker and today was his first day off after over two weeks of working steadily to get everyone else’s power back on.

It had been over eighteen days since Hurricane Sandy lifted the Atlantic Ocean and washed it across the low-lying areas of  the Jersey Shore, Long Island and New York City. We were nearing the end of our first day helping the relief effort.

With about an hour of daylight left, we figured we should try to push ourselves on Mike. Bryant and I joined up with a crew of volunteers from a landscaping company and just descended on his house. It was a little house, and there were so many of us that we barely fit.

His wife was wearing a tyvek haz-mat suit, and Mike and his brother (cousin?) were wrestling with the water heater.  We just took over. The basement had once been a fine man-cave. Now it was a jumble of sewage-soaked furniture, electronics equipment and exercise gear. The concrete floor was wet and slightly uneven, so a few large dark puddles remained. The smell was bad. Everyone wore boots, masks, gloves and had been doing this all day so were getting used to it.

Fox Beach Ave., Staten Island, NY
Our crew formed an ad hoc bucket brigade and passed everything up the stairs and out the front door. Washer, dryer, water heater.  Treadmill, heavy bag, weight bench. You can save the dumbells.  Flat panel is done for. Lazy-boy was too big and wet-heavy to lift, so we chopped it up with a fire axe  Sofa got the fire-axe treatment, too. Clothes. Shoes. Piles of baby clothes stored away for safekeeping.  A stack of milk crates packed with Grandpa’s old stereo records. Andy Williams, Tony Bennett, Glenn Miller. That soaked cardboard weighed a ton.

All of the big stuff and most of the small stuff was bagged and up and out in thirty minutes. A lifetime’s accumulation of belongings turned into a giant pile of trash piled up alongside a white Ford Explorer that had been pushed over the curb and up against the house. I shook Mike’s hand, promised to come back tomorrow and walked out the door. Over my shoulder I heard him say, “Unbelievable. Two days of work done in a half hour.”

He still had to get the soaked carpeting off the first floor and tear off the sheetrock and insulation. With a dozen volunteers, we could easily get that done Sunday. We found out later that Mike had three relatives in the same neighborhood who lost their homes and all their belongings. Another relative across the street lost his life in the flood. Mike didn't come back on Sunday. I guess he’d had enough and just needed to get away from it for a bit.
Eric Schwartz stands on his foundation
and points at the rest of his house

When we first arrived in the disaster zone Saturday morning, our brains had a hard time comprehending what our eyes were seeing. A house torn apart and upside down in a salt marsh is so out of context that at first you can’t understand just what you’re seeing. A garage that lost its right angles is now a side-slipped parallelogram. A Hyundai rested on the roof of a BMW and an old Plymouth perched atop a boulder. 

One house had its entire front wall ripped off leaving the owner’s life-space naked and exposed. They say it’s like a war zone. I don’t know because I've only seen war zones in the movies and the actuality of this is far more jarring than anything I've seen in pictures.

Volunteers are everywhere. Dawn Rizzo is running the relief effort for this neighborhood out of the VFW Post on Mill Road. She has a good crew of assistants. There’s a feeding station alongside the building where volunteers and neighborhood residents can get hot meals all day long. Good homemade food, too. Chick-fil-A has donated hundreds of meals and is making a lot of friends here.  Private groups also set up grills and tables to serve food. It’s classic New York. A working class neighborhood and good food’s important. 

Engineers from the New York City Department of Buildings have gone through every house in the area and checked them for damage. They’re all marked with a tag on the front door that says if it’s fixable or not. We stay away from the red-tagged homes. If there are special problems like electric or gas, the door tag tells you that too.

The guys from the Department of Buildings are overwhelmed. One told us, “We do  all this paper work and give it to FEMA and they give the homeowner a check for 500 bucks. What the hell’s the point of that?” They’re worried that when everyone’s gone and it’s time to re-build, “cheap contractors are going to swarm in and rebuild the same crap that just fell apart.”

A lot of the folks are unsure of what to do next. Advice is common, but instruction seems rare. Many homeowners seem as if they would like some authority figure to tell them what to do. 

People experienced with floods know that the floodwater is full of really nasty stuff. Everything that’s in the sewers floats back up into the flood. Into the garages, the basements, and the living spaces.

Cleaning up on Fox Lane, Staten Island, NY
Some homeowners are having a very hard time accepting the fact that they have to rip the guts out of their homes if they are ever going to be livable again. Some think that they can just let them dry out. The minute the waters recede, the bacteria and mold begins to grow. It’s toxic, but if attacked quickly the house can be saved. You would think that the Board of Health would have a required protocol for managing or treating flooded homes. If there is one, it hasn't been communicated widely enough.

The first home we worked on Saturday, we removed all the contents and then waited around for an hour while a psychologist tried to convince the distraught homeowner to allow us to remove the sheetrock and insulation. He never did, so we moved on and the house just sat there, rotting.
Liberian Children
What great workers!

We had a great crew on that house. Bryant and I from PolycreteUSA, a young German woman who worked at the UN, and Larry and Jeff -- two middle-aged guys from Massachusetts who initially claimed to be “just surfers” but later admitted to being a graphic designer and a surgeon. Actually, when Larry identified Jeff as a surgeon, Jeff gave him a dirty look and said, “You just violated the code.” 

We also had several folks from the Liberian delegation to the United Nations and they brought along nearly a dozen of their children. The kids were boisterous, happy and full of love. They shoveled away all the salt grass  that had washed up two feet deep on the deck and front yard. One of the Liberian men told us, “America helped us when we had troubles in our country, so we just want to return the favor.” 

Volunteers Help Sanitation Department Workers
The Department of Sanitation is doing a heroic job. They’re out here non-stop from dawn ‘til dark. As fast as you can pileup the stuff on the curb, they’re loading up trucks and hauling it away. These guys are fantastic, but they’re not happy either. They say the Corps of Engineers needs to get down here and rebuild the berms to keep the water out or this is going happen again, soon. But they’re afraid that there’s not enough money and influence in the neighborhood to make it worth anyone’s while.

The Department of Sanitation is supplemented by private companies who’ve come in with bobcats and small front end loaders. The streets are narrow so there’s no room for big equipment. The garbage trucks seem to have two sanitation workers and a driver, but crowds of volunteers with shovels help get the trucks filled.   

With the exception of the Sanitation workers, this entire relief operation, wonderful that it is, is manned entirely by volunteers. The Fire Department and NYPD are all around, but they’re doing their regular jobs. No one that we spoke with had seen FEMA.  Many didn’t even know that FEMA had set up their operation less than a mile to the north.

Cyril Checking on the Crew 
During a break on Sunday, I talked about this with Cyril. A French graduate student working on his dissertation, Cyril has been volunteering nearly every day since the hurricane. He was struck by the lack of any authority or help from government workers. He said, “With all the disasters we've had lately, you’d think they would have some set procedure for handling this. Dawn’s over there at the VFW with her staff, and they’re doing a great job, but they’re just making this all up as they go.”

I’m wondering the same thing as Cyril. I’m all for a small government, but where’s the knowledge base and where’s the communication? Maybe FEMA's spread too thin and the magnitude of this has taxed their resources. I noticed that they still have a presence in Joplin, MO after eighteen months. 

I’m also not a big fan of government regulation, but it seems to me that there should be a Board of Health protocol for handling flooded homes. Not just structurally damaged ones either. If the living space of a home has been wet by flood waters, we need to have a required protocol for disinfecting them otherwise they may not be safe to live in – and average people may not even be aware of it. That should not be difficult.

Lastly, we need to change our building codes. Homes built in hurricane zones and along the coastlines should be designed and built to withstand wind and flood. You may say that’s just Bruce being self-serving, but how often do you want to deal with disasters like this? If Joplin Missouri was built with concrete houses, fewer would have been leveled by that tornado. Shall we even talk about Katrina? Lastly, we have a system of federally subsidized flood insurance in this country, how many times do you want to spend your tax dollars re-building someone else’s house?

Violent storms and wildfires are becoming the new normal. Call it climate change or call it a growing population that naturally puts more people in the way of Mother Nature’s fits.  The name’s not important. What’s important is that more frequent natural disasters are a fact and changing the building codes to require stronger structures will reduce the misery.

We’re going back up to Staten Island after Thanksgiving. We need to see our friends at the Jersey Shore, too. We could use some more volunteer help up there because there’s going to be a ton of work for a long time, and we’re still just cleaning up. We haven’t even started talking about rebuilding. Message me to learn what you can do.

PolycreteUSA has developed a program for making cash contributions to the rebuilding effort. Email us to learn the details.

PolycreteUSA - 6802 Paragon Place - Suite 410 - Richmond, VA 23230  -  800-570-4313

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Size Really Does Matter!

I thought our twelve inch wide Polycrete® Big Block™ was the biggest insulated concrete form in the world until our guys in Canada showed me their latest invention. It's a Big Block™ ICF with a twenty-four inch core. I'm not kidding.

This monster has a lot of uses and it's going to save contractors a lot of time. We've seen plenty of cast in place foundation walls that are too wide for our standard stable of Big Block™ products, but those days are gone. Now you can forget about humping around heavy traditional forms, setting them up, stripping them down, cleaning them and hauling them back to the yard every time you have a stem wall over a foot thick.

These two foot wide forms only weigh about thirty five pounds for every sixteen square feet of wall. Think about how fast and easy this is going to be. And the GC doesn't have to use an insulation sub either because the form is the insulation.

You know what else those guys up in Canada have come up with? Eighteen inch tall Big Block™. So now we have three heights: One foot, a foot and a half and two feet. For those of you who like to think in inches, that's 12", 18" and 24".

Three block heights makes it easier to get to the top of the wall. Cuts your waste, too. You'll never throw away more than a few inches off a rip and now you're less likely to have a to rip a Big Block™ in the first place.

So now you have the gears turning around in your head and I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that if we can make a twelve inch tall Big Block™ and we can make a twenty-four inch wide Big Block™, then we have invented the perfect ICF footing form. And you're right. Except that we haven't automated the process  to make the Big Block™ one foot tall by two foot wide. Yet. It's coming.

In the meantime, we can give you eighteen inch tall and twenty-four inch wide if you have a footing that deep, or we can give you the two foot tall by two foot wide and you rip it in the field. Either way, it's still going to save a lot of time and aggravation. Contact us for pricing on these special sizes over twelve inches thick– it's going to be quantity sensitive.

That leads me into the last bit of product news for the year, and the least fun. We are going to have a price increase effective January 1st. It's less than 5%. We've held our pricing even for almost two years, but steady increases in raw materials are forcing this on us. The good news is that if you get your order placed and paid for by December 15th, you can get in under that increase. Email us to request a copy of the new price list.

One other thing: the plant will close for the holidays on December 22nd and re-open on January 7th. Our office staff will be available to take your calls and discuss your projects, but we won't be able to ship any orders between those dates.

Please call us today so we can get your orders in before the price increase, and have a great Thanksgiving.

PolycreteUSA  •   6802 Paragon Place • Suite 410 • Richmond, VA 23230  •    800-570-4313




Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Martin Scorsese Bug and Secure Buildings

We got bit by the Martin Scorsese bug this week. Someone told us our website was boring because it had no videos. We said, "That's wrong, it's not boring... but you're right, it has no videos."

So we added some videos. The first one I want you to know about is for secure buildings. By that I mean mission critical data centers, telecommunications centers and other facilities that need to withstand natural disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes or earthquakes and also man made disasters like terrorist attacks. These are blast resistant buildings. Polycrete Big Block is a great way to build secure buildings because, let's face it: it's a concrete wall.

Big Block has some unique attributes that make it particularly useful for this type of construction. Variable core thickness from five inches to twelve inches allows maximum design flexibility. Steel wire cross ties are very strong yet take up minimal space. This means you have more room for reinforcing steel and still don't have to worry about whether or not the concrete will flow properly. It will. 

You can fit an awful lot of rebar into a Polycrete Big Block wall, and you have no worries about voids. You're going to be amazed at how much rebar is in these walls! The secure building in this video has three to five foot stem walls, and then it goes up eighteen feet above the slab. 

The installer built and poured the foundation walls first. Next, he poured the slab to it. He then built up off the slab with the envelope walls. Horizontal rebar was placed as the walls went up, and then vertical bars were set in place from the top. He pumped that full eighteen feet in one pour. Using a conventional vibrator, consolidation was fine and there were no voids. 

Have a look at this short video and then call or email us to talk about your secure building project.

PolycreteUSA - 6802 Paragon Place - Suite 410 - Richmond, VA 23230 - 804-441-6234

Monday, March 26, 2012

Cornerstone Architects

PolycreteUSA believes it's important to make a big deal about great organizations we work with. Rich Morse of Cornerstone Architects long ago recognized the unique properties that Polycrete Big Block brings to ICF construction. Several years ago, he designed a mission critical structure with Big Block in mind and he pushed and shoved and worked it like a pit bull until it finally got built. Here's some information about his focused and dedicated design firm.

Cornerstone Architects is a full service architectural and interior design firm located in downtown Richmond, Virginia. They specialize in healthcare design and historic adaptive reuse.  The firm was founded in 1991 by Richard K. Morse and Richard T. Peterson. The pair worked together at a national healthcare design/build firm and was confident the experience and depth of knowledge they gained there would lead to success as an independent firm. 

The path turned out to be strategically rewarding during a difficult economic climate.  Cornerstone is now a leading competitor in the design arena completing successful projects working with developers, hospitals, private practices, and several educational institutions.   Cornerstone is client-focused. 

“At Cornerstone Architects we begin the design process by trying to gain an appreciation for our clients’ world.  We do this by engaging in a continual conversation.  Our goal is to listen, distill your needs, and provide you with intelligent, innovation, efficient solutions.”

Cornerstone expects nothing but the best from each team member and holds them to the highest standards.  With each project, objectives are simple and straight-forward:

  • Respond to the client’s needs
  • Make a distinguished statement
  • Contribute to the community
  • Remain environmentally conscious and responsible

“Our architectural and design services are led by an award-winning design team that works in synergy.  They tailor project management services to both small and large-scale, complex projects ….. from concept site planning and engineering to architectural and interior design to on-time - on-budget delivery.  A collaborative working relationship with our client is paramount while we maintain an intense focus on project cost and schedule management.”

Mission Critical Design by Cornerstone
Cornerstone believes constant communication and understanding among the architects, vendors, contractors, and clients is essential to a successful design and a happy client.  As a result, they begin the design process by actively “walking in the shoes of our clients and their customers.”  They immerse team members in the lives of the clients and work closely with key individuals to explore their priorities and “wish lists” for optimal results.

Cornerstone Architects is guided in the design process by basic principles.  Among these is to solve the client’s program on time and on budget and to design with the future in mind.  Will the building or space designed today make sense in ten years?  Cornerstone’s goal is to push the design response beyond typical expectations.

Cornerstone is also a seasoned player in the Federal Government Design/Build sector. They have designed mission-critical structures with Polycrete® Big Block™ ICFs that include blast resistance, AT/FP features and they fully understand progressive collapse prevention strategies. 

Cornerstone Architects 
23 West Broad Street, Suite 200
Richmond, Virginia 23220

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

PolycreteUSA Can Help Cut Your Tax Bill

Our mission is to make it easy for you to design, build and own energy efficient commercial buildings. We’re not content to just make the best engineered commercial grade ICF. The truth is we always have an eye out for new ways to make this business easier for all of us. Today, we want to show you how you can keep real dollars in your pocket by reducing your tax bill.

This strategy works for both commercial building owners and designers. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 – called EPAct for short, allows a Federal Income Tax Deduction for energy efficient buildings. Today, you can claim up to $180,000 per 100,000 square feet of floor space.

You can qualify in any or all of three separate categories:  HVAC, Lighting and Building Envelope.  The way you qualify is by designing and constructing the building or improvements so that those components are more energy efficient than a 2001 benchmark building. Here’s the breakdown:
  •  Building Envelope: Save 60¢ per square foot for a 10% reduction.
  • HVAC: Save 60¢ per square foot for a 15% reduction.
  • Lighting: Save 60¢ per square foot for a 25% reduction
    • Partial credit: 30-60¢ for a 25-40% reduction in lighting power density
Any commercial building can qualify. Apartments for lease that are four or more stories can also qualify, and commercial renovations can benefit as well. For now, the work must have been completed between December 31, 2005 and January 1, 2014. The best part is that it is not necessary to amend prior year tax returns in order to take the deduction. 

PolycreteUSA has teamed up with an industry leader in 179d Tax Deduction certifications, Walker Reid Strategies to make this happen for you. WRS is a licensed engineering firm and has all the required Professional Engineers, LEED Accredited Professionals and Commercial Energy Raters on staff. Walker Reid Strategies provides the required IRS certificate documentation for deductions including:
  •          Energy Model performed with a Dept. of Energy Certified program
  •          Inspection Compliance Form
  •          Certified Letter Verifying the Qualified Deductions

You can receive this benefit if you’re the building owner or tenant at the time of the construction or improvements. The deduction is also available for Public Buildings. Owners of public buildings may allocate the deduction to the architect, engineer, contractor or energy consultant. This applies to schools, state and local government buildings and even federal government and military structures.

When I tell people this works with public buildings, their first reaction is often, “Yeah, right.” But it really does work. Walker Reid helped a New Jersey based lighting service company receive a $2.6 Million tax deduction by providing turn-key lighting projects in five school districts in NJ, PA and NY. The combined 4.34 million square foot projects were certified by WRS and allocated to the contractor/designer as required by the IRS §179D Guidelines.

Polycrete® buildings are always highly energy efficient. In many cases, choosing Polycrete® alone will enable you to achieve the 10% energy reduction required to earn the Building Envelope deduction. Your choice of windows and roof systems are also going to make a critical impact. On a 50,000 square foot building the tax deduction achieved from choosing Polycrete® can amount to $30,000. That’s real money.

Your building must be at least 9,000 square feet in order to make this economically feasible. During the engineering process, if WRS determines that your building will not qualify, they’re not going to charge you anything, and their minimum fee is very reasonable. The entire process rarely takes more than eight weeks and is frequently much shorter.

In order to get this ball rolling, or to get some more information on the section 179d deduction, please call or email me. If you’d prefer, you can contact David Diaz directly at Walker Reid Strategies.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

PolycreteUSA Assists Army Corps of Engineers Set New Construction Standards

PolycreteUSA Executive V. P. Bryant Wheeler announced today that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has signaled broad approval of insulated concrete forms (ICF) construction by issuing a service‐wide Unified Facilities Guide Specification. This approves the system for general use on Army construction projects and sets product quality and installation standards. “We’ve been working with the Army and Navy for several years now to get this accomplished,” Wheeler said, “and we’re very happy to have reached this milestone.”

ICFs are hollow blocks made from expanded polystyrene (EPS) that are stacked up to form a wall. Reinforcing steel is placed into the hollow and it’s filled with concrete. The result is a sandwich-like wall where the EPS is the bread and the concrete is the meat. EPS serves as insulation and the concrete provides strength. ICF buildings are very strong, very energy efficient and very quiet.

Wheeler said that he began building houses with ICFs nearly thirty years ago because of the high insulation properties, but ICF technology has just recently advanced to the level demanded by military and large commercial construction development. “I became involved with Polycrete® about four years ago when the Big Block™ product was introduced. I always thought ICF would be a great way for the military to build, but the product quality was not up to snuff. Because of its size, strength and engineering design, Big Block™ solves that problem.”

Wheeler had served in the Marine Corps, so he contacted his former commanding officer Major General Michael Sullivan, who arranged a meeting with the Naval Engineering Facilities Command (NAVFAC). “I brought Serge Meilleur, the President of the Canadian company who developed the product down to meet with NAVFAC. We met with top NAVFAC engineers in Norfolk, and they said that they’d never seen an ICF as big or strong as Big Block™. They thought it would have a real impact on military construction and troop protection. That began a four year journey.”

All branches of the service as well as the Veterans Administration, Department of Labor and other agencies have constructed ICF buildings. But it has always been on an ad hoc, case by case basis. There have never been uniform product quality and installation standards. Those standards, called Unified Facilities Guide Specifications (UFGS) are used by all branches of the military and other government entities. Until ICF had its own UFGS specification, there would always be a question of main-stream acceptance.

“After about a year spent trying to get the Corps of Engineers and NAVFAC to design some ICF buildings,” Wheeler said, “we were told we needed to get the criteria room people to write a UFGS spec. We established some solid contacts in the Civil Works Structural Engineering Division of the Corps of Engineers, and they helped start the process.”

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) regularly solicits input from the construction community, so PolycreteUSA submitted a draft UFGS specification in 2009. By 2011, USACE returned its version to PolycreteUSA and at least one other national ICF manufacturer for comments.

“Polycrete® Big Block™ is significantly different from traditional ICFs,” says PolycreteUSA President, Bruce Anderson, “so we had to make sure the spec the Corps wrote permitted features like our horizontal fastening system. We also encouraged them to include minimum strength requirements since lower quality ICFs tend to break or become deformed when concrete is poured into them. In Government contracting, where jobs go to the lowest bidder, there’s a tendency to gravitate to the lowest priced materials and that can translate to low quality. We don’t mind competing, but we want to compete with other top quality products.”

“The form strength component in this spec is where Polycrete® stands apart,” said Wheeler. The rule requires installers to construct their formwork to comply with the American Concrete Institute’s standards. “If the strength of the ICF alone isn’t sufficient – and many of them aren’t -- the installers will have to shore them up. That means higher material and labor costs. Since Big Block™ withstands 1,600 lbs per sqft, we won’t ever have to worry about that. Polycrete® buildings go up very quickly and safely with lower labor costs.”

The last six months have been instrumental for the industry and Polycrete® in particular. In September 2011, the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) cited the benefits of ICFs for constructing energy efficient K-12 schools. At the same time, the federal government began specifying Polycrete® products for secure facilities like data centers, and this new UFGS spec for ICF construction heralds an expansion of the market for Polycrete® Big Block™.