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™.