Lubbock emerges as frontrunner in concrete home construction
By: JIM NIEHOFF
The West Texas city of Lubbock has emerged as the national leader in constructing energy-efficient, disaster-resistant concrete homes. Over the last two years, the city has demolished more than 30 substandard, deteriorating homes and replaced them with homes built with insulating concrete form (ICF) exterior walls.
The project is part of the city's Energy Savings Reconstruction Program, which is partially funded through a combination of state, federal and private partnerships, including the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Department of Energy (DOE). Under the terms of the program, residents are provided with temporary housing until their new concrete home is complete. The city has utilized three insulating concrete form suppliers to-date — American Polysteel, Eco-Block and Caswall. The city and the three form distributors have trained and certified a total of 11 local contractors to build with ICFs, which gives Lubbock one of the highest concentration of trained ICF builders anywhere in North America.
Before deciding on ICFs as a preferred method of home construction, Brad Reed, Senior Building Inspector for Lubbock, and the rest of the Community Development Team conducted research to determine the cost effectiveness of the ICF systems. The team concluded that although building with ICFs increased the cost of the homeowners' monthly mortgage by several dollars per month, the resultant energy savings were so significant that the net monthly result to the owner was a savings of nearly $ 33 per month. The city continues to work with organizations such as the Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC) to review floor plans and designs with respect to not only the ICF walls, but other factors that influence the energy efficiency of the building envelope, such as HVAC sizing and location, attic insulation, windows and siding. The goal is to achieve homes that are 50 percent to 75 percent more energy-efficient than wood-frame construction.
Another factor that makes Lubbock ideal for concrete home construction is its location in the heart of "Tornado Alley." Research conducted by Texas Tech University's Wind Engineering Research Center, also located in Lubbock, concluded that an exterior concrete wall is one of the premier systems that can ensure safety for homeowners from the debris carried by tornado and hurricane force winds. University researchers, led by Ernst Kiesling, Ph.D, conducted a series of analytical and physical testing of numerous exterior wall systems for residential housing, subjecting them to projectiles driven by the severest of winds. Only concrete wall systems, such as ICFs, were proven to withstand 100 percent of all known hurricane-force winds and over 99 percent of tornado-force winds. The Texas Tech testing was certainly another factor in the city's selection of ICF technology.
The City of Lubbock recently participated in National Community Development Week celebrations, with the city's concrete homebuilding efforts taking center stage. Some of the events that took place included an informational seminar for contractors interested in learning about ICF construction, a tour of the affordable ICF homes for members of the city council and local media outlets, and a partner recognition luncheon. At the luncheon, the Cement & Concrete Promotion Council of Texas (CCPC) and the Portland Cement Association (PCA) were recognized as valuable community partners in Lubbock's effort to build the most energy-efficient, disaster-resistant affordable homes possible. The CCPC has been a valuable resource for the City of Lubbock and has been instrumental in securing the involvement of local and state concrete industry partners. More information about the CCPC of Texas and its activities can be found at www.ccpc-texas.org. The PCA has been involved with industry partners in promoting concrete construction for affordable housing programs and organizations, such as Habitat for Humanity, throughout the nation. PCA maintains a residential Web site at www.concretehomes.com.
Although the affordable concrete homes that have been built by the City of Lubbock justifiably receive most of the attention, the fact is that the majority of the ICF homes built in Lubbock have been constructed for the private housing industry. The CCPC of Texas has documented more than 200 ICF homes that have been built in Lubbock over the last five years, in all types of price ranges. Lubbock provides a terrific example of how concrete home construction can benefit people of all income levels. The City of Lubbock is pushing ahead with plans to build additional ICF homes, with as many as 20 homes planned for the year 2002.
Other cities can easily replicate the city's highly successful program. Brad Reed is busy answering questions from city planners across the nation that are interested in building affordable housing with HUD funds in this innovative manner.
The City of Lubbock has chosen to take a proactive stance on energy efficient, innovative construction techniques, which appear to be the way of the future for the affordable housing market. For more information about the City of Lubbock Affordable Housing Reconstruction Program, contact Adrian King of the CCPC of Texas at 817-540-4437 or Jim Niehoff at the PCA at 847-972-9108.