With the new millennium, we get new technology is mobile phones, mobile internet, computers, and cars, but where technology has not touched too much is home building. If I were to tear open the walls of my house, it would expose a dimensional lumber construction style developed in the 19th century. With progress in almost everything else in the world, our built environment must take advantage of the research and materials of the 21st century. I’ve been researching these alternative materials for many years, hoping that production builders would start to use them, but so far no Home Depot or Lowes sells anything other than lumber or concrete blocks as a house building system.
The building comfort level is certainly there, but the experience and details of fine home building are lost on most. My home addition will use the latest in durable, lightweight, and super energy efficient products as a demonstration project to at least document what can be achieved with not too much extra money.
The walls, floors, and roof are compromised of Premier Building Systems structural insulated panels, and today I start my design on a Nudura insulated concrete form (ICF) foundation system. if concrete were not as environmentally taxing, you could make an entire first floor out of concrete, but the manufacture of concrete is extremely environmentally hazardous, taking over 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions (mining, manufacture, transportation, use). Concrete offers many advantages in seismic areas that no other material allows, so it’s OK to use, but must be use wisely.
Initially I tried getting a manufactured foundation, which is available on the east and central areas of the USA, but the west coast with earthquakes, manufacturers are hesitant to release and certify the product. The next best thing is designing the use of concrete to present its inherent strength and longevity into cavities and forms. This is what an ICF product allows. Just enough concrete for performance, but not excessive amounts, like in a typical foundation system.