During NAHB's recent board meeting in Reno, Nev., I met builder, Michael Strong of Brothers Strong, Houston, CGR and CAPS certified. He recently embraced cement-based building and is taking it to the extreme by adding a zero-energy plan. For builders on the fence about building with concrete, here is a glimpse of one person's beginning.
Strong says, “Our primary business is residential remodeling, but as a green remodeler we could not turn down an opportunity to build a green home from scratch. The client, one of our first customers 15 years ago, felt that what we lacked in experience was offset by our work with green technologies, systems, and materials—and the architect agreed.”
The home is a contemporary 4500-square-foot insulating concrete form (ICF) home for a family of five. “The house will be completely green. VOC paints are out. Bamboo and Lyptus wood flooring, Icenyne insulation system, solar panels on the standing seam roof, tankless water heaters, 21 SEER HVAC system are in,” says Strong.
“It's an education process. We found nothing negative during the learning phase. We had a lot of curiosity, tempered with a fair amount of fear. But, once we did a site visit to a home in progress, we had that ‘Eureka' moment when the fog lifted and the construction method was easy to understand.” Strong says that he chose ICFs because “in the Houston residential single-family market there is a better chance of finding experienced ICF craftsmen than for other cement-based systems.”
When asked what change they will make from their usual building process, Strong says, “We are more focused than ever on reducing thermal bleed caused by penetrations and connections. We grew up with wood frame houses and understand what can and cannot be done with wood. But concrete? We are learning more about combining the cement-based building methods with zero-energy systems as we put them into practice.”
While it took a demanding but trusting customer, a challenging project, and a safety net of local contractors, Brothers Strong discovered what more and more builders across the country are finding: Sometimes, the answer to building better is right under your nose.
NAHB's, Concrete Home Building Council (CHBC) began in 2004 as an educational resource for all cement-based building materials. The aftermath of natural disasters forces builders to look at stronger and more sustainable concrete building methods. To learn more about these methods and opportunities visit CHBC at www.NAHB.org/concrete. To follow up with Brothers Strong, go to www.BrothersStrong.com.