By: CYNDEE DUHADAWAY
The natural beauty and small town charm of Clarke County in northeastern Georgia are manifested in the new 32-homesite development by Patrick Halloran through PMH Inc., in partnership with Halloran Masonry. By applying building principles borrowed from the past, Halloran plans to create homes in the new community that will be around well into the future.
"The goal of PMH and Halloran Masonry is to provide quality craftsmanship on a long-term basis," Halloran said. "We've been here 25 years, and we plan to be here providing homes and commercial structures that will last well past a person's natural lifetime."
Halloran said his company expanded its primarily commercial building services by adding the construction of beautiful, high-quality custom homes after noticing the trend toward less-than-perfect masonry craftsmanship.
"Part of expert craftsmanship is using quality materials, and many homes today are built with cheap materials," Halloran said. "I have tested a lot of new products and materials, and many of them fail within a few years. Masonry is one of most durable, indestructible and natural materials around. After all, Rome is still standing. Other than windows, doors and fascia, the exterior of a masonry home, when built correctly, is basically maintenance-free."
The only problem when choosing to build with masonry products, Halloran pointed out, is the lack of experienced bricklayers and masons available throughout the United States.
"Many homes built today are not constructed with the materials and craftsmanship necessary to create a long-lasting structure," Halloran said. "These days it's difficult to find a good journeyman bricklayer who knows how to build homes that will last from generation to generation."
To remedy the situation, Halloran created an apprentice program at Halloran Masonry early in his career.
"Our apprentice program uses master bricklayers who pass along the artistry and craftsmanship necessary for the future strength of our industry," Halloran said. "We are proud to pass along these skills that are becoming non-existent."
Those skills are evident in the homes built by PMH Inc. In order to dramatically illustrate the differences between homes built on a foundation of craftsmanship of masonry provided by traditional journeyman bricklayers and stick-built homes built by large-scale construction crews, the Georgia Concrete Products Association suggested that Halloran's first home in the project be built in the Timber Creek community in Clarke County.
"Timber Creek is a nice subdivision in a great area, but it's a typical suburban subdivision," Halloran said. "There are basically about four versions of the same wood-frame house, all throughout the community. We built a custom-designed masonry home in that subdivision to show the difference a high-quality custom-built masonry can make."
The clean, well-built lines and extraordinary design of the Timber Creek masonry home are reminding people that the tradition of good craftsmanship is still important when building a house that can be passed down from generation to generation.
"We built the home in the traditional way that was typical prior to World War II, when everything was built by four or five highly skilled craftsmen who really cared about the integrity and long-term viability of the end product," Halloran said. "Some people were surprised that this beautiful, 2,500-square foot home was built by a crew of four craftsmen, rather than by crews of dozens of different subcontractors."
The home was constructed in about seven months, with more than a half century of experience in masonry between the four of the journeyman bricklayers who built that house. Only the heating/air-conditioning and carpeting were subbed out. The home was built with 6-inch concrete block filled solid with 3,000 psi concrete, two-inch Dow Corning insulation board, 1-inch air cavity, 4.5-inch standard face brick. All of the interior walls have three-coat cementicious Portland cement plaster. The result of the quality products is durability, energy efficiency and sound resistance, and a four-hour fire rating.
The No. 4 rebar throughout the exterior walls makes the home both wind and tornado resistant.
One of the most popular features, however, is the state-of-the-art safe room built in the center of the house. A safe room is an area of a home that is highly wind, fire and burglar resistant, and often takes the place of a storm cellar in modern homes. When built properly, a safe room usually is indistinguishable from any other room in the house. The only difference is in the construction.
"The safe room in the house exceeds the Federal Emergency Management Agency guidelines by a long shot," Halloran said. "It's constructed of solid concrete and features an emergency air vent, and it's also equipped with a phone jack, a receptacle for a battery-charged flashlight, and a niche for emergency supplies."
Halloran said the Georgia Emergency Management Agency was impressed with the standards used to build this safe room and gave its full endorsement.
"Every home should be built with a safe room," Halloran said. "Despite what some people might believe, safe rooms aren't that expensive when done properly, and these rooms can save lives."
Testing has shown concrete to be the best material to use when building safe rooms, according to Terry Collins, concrete construction engineer at Portland Cement Association.
"Concrete is placed as a fluid material into forms, and it hardens into a one-piece structure that increases the total overall strength of the room," Collins said. "One of the reasons concrete is a preferred material when building safe rooms is the FEMA testing on concrete's resistance to wind-driven projectiles. They propelled the butt-end of two by fours at speeds of about 200 mph at walls made of different materials, and concrete was the material that best resisted penetration by wind-driven projectiles. An added benefit of concrete in safe rooms is that because of its weight, it's almost impossible for a storm, tornado or hurricane to pick up the concrete structure."
Halloran believes in the safe rooms so much that each home in the new PMH community will be built with one.
"As far as we know, there is nothing like this community in the United States," Halloran said. "It will be a gated community with all-masonry homes, and each home will have a safe room. This neighborhood is being designed with a nod toward old-fashioned neighborhoods, where the homes were beautiful and lasted long enough to pass down from generation to generation. The homes will take the best of the past and combine it with all the technology of high-tech wiring and modern conveniences."
Halloran said his company will develop the community and build each home within that community in order to ensure that his strict standards of quality and longevity are rigorously maintained.
"I think the idea is generating a lot of interest," Halloran said. "We don't think we're going to have to use a lot of hype to market these homes. We think the quality of these homes will speak for themselves."
And with Halloran's commitment to traditional building, the homes will be standing long into the future.