By Paul Farr
With lumber prices soaring, Athens Area Habitat for Humanity is turning to innovative building techniques to lower construction costs. Habitat’s planned “Build with Strength” home will break ground in more ways than one for Athens-Clarke County, while also bringing down monthly housing costs for the homeowner.
Athens Area Habitat is one of only 16 Habitat affiliates in the US chosen for the Build with Strength program, a partnership with the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association (NRMCA) to construct high-strength, high-efficiency homes using insulated concrete forms (ICFs). On May 11th, Athens Habitat and its partners broke ground on the future home of the Moody family on Marlboro Downs Road, Habitat’s 18th house in the Stonehenge neighborhood.
“It is going to be the most efficient, durable, and quiet home in this neighborhood,” said Jimmy Cotty of the Georgia Ready Mixed Concrete Association.
The future homeowners, local politicians, and build partners were shown a sample of the ICFs, which fit together like Lego blocks to form a pair of rigid-insulation walls. When the space between them is filled with concrete, the resulting structure is up to 60% more energy efficient than wood framing, much stronger, and compatible with all sorts of exterior treatments from brick to stucco to vinyl or plank siding.
Mayor Kelly Girtz remarked that he first volunteered at a Habitat build in the Stonehenge neighborhood, working on a poured concrete foundation. “It was cool,” he recalled, “but not nearly as cool a concrete pour as this one.” In fact, this will be the first Habitat home in the Southeast to use ICFs.
“With the price of lumber where it is, building with concrete is a no-brainer,” says Athens Area Habitat’s executive director Spencer Frye. “You get a more resilient house that costs less to heat and cool and can stand up so much better to natural disasters. If you remember photos of the Sand Palace home in Florida that was left standing in a neighborhood of flattened houses after Hurricane Michael in 2018, that was ICF construction. That’s security for your family as well as for the investment in your home.”
Construction is slated for this summer. Once completed, the Build with Strength home will stand on the site for many decades to come.
Other partners in the Build with Strength project in Athens include the American Concrete Pumping Association, Concrete Pump Partners, Dalton Carpet One, the Insulating Concrete Forms Manufacturers Association, Quad-Lock Insulated Concrete Forms, and Thomas Concrete.