Kemp, Girtz to Commend “Build With Strength” Home


Athens Mayor Kelly Girtz and Georgia Governor Brian Kemp will be on Feb.18 to commend the “Build With Strength” home under construction by Athens Area Habitat for Humanity. Already popular in Europe, building with insulating concrete forms (ICFs) is expected to trend upward in America in the wake of skyrocketing timber costs and increased threats from wildfire and superstorms due to climate change.

ICFs are rigid blocks of insulation that stack like oversized LEGO bricks, forming two layers of exterior framing. A lattice of steel rebar is constructed in the gap between them, which is then filled with a thin layer of concrete. Friday’s event marks the “pour down” for this home, when liquid concrete is pumped into the assembled frame. The resulting structure is stronger, quieter, and more energy efficient than a wood framed home, and resists warping from humidity as well as damage from termites. Once completed, the interior of a home built with ICFs can be hung with drywall, and the exterior can be finished with any type of siding the homeowner desires, from brick or stucco to vinyl or HardiePlank. The only visible difference between concrete- and wood-framed homes is the thickness of the door jambs and window casings. Structurally, however, concrete provides much greater strength, as famously demonstrated by the “Sand Palace” home in Mexico Beach, FL, which survived Hurricane Michael in 2018 while the surrounding neighborhood was flattened.

Athens Area Habitat for Humanity is one of only 16 Habitat affiliates nationwide selected to participate in the Build With Strength program in partnership with the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association (NRMCA). Concrete is a readily available resource in northern Georgia, and can incorporate a number of recycled materials that would otherwise be disposed of as waste, including coal ash.

Two states currently have laws requiring that insurance companies pass on their reduced risk from concrete-built homes to homeowners in the form of reduced premiums. Athens Area Habitat will be advocating for the Georgia General Assembly to enact similar legislation in our state.

Friday’s events will kick off with remarks by Governor Kemp, Mayor Girtz, and others at 8:30 AM, followed by tours of the site and Q&A for builders and the general public by industry experts. The concrete pour is expected to begin around 11:00. Those wishing to attend are asked to RSVP with Athens Habitat by contacting VP of Operations Charles Smith at 706-715-6725.

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.

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