Mitchell believes in concrete.
Drive through the Tree Tops subdivision
of Germantown and youll see a unique 2,600 square foot ranch house
built by Shawn Mitchell. Like other new houses in the area, its
attractive, yet it significantly differs from the others. How and why?
Mitchell, who runs Victory Homes, says its not your fathers
conventional wood frame home. "Its a house thats framed by
insulating concrete forms (ICFs)," he explains.
Although ICF construction is popular in
the South, where termites are not uncommon, concrete houses are new to
the Milwaukee area. "They cost two percent to five percent more
than conventional houses, but paybacks in terms of energy savings are
relatively fast," Mitchell maintains.
"ICFs comprise one of the fast
growing sectors in the construction industry because they are
environmentally friendly," he says. "They reduce the use of
wood products; theyre energy efficient because of excellent
insulation and reduce heating and cooling costs, typically by as much
as 50 percent each month. Theyre also sound suppressing."
These forms are modular blocks made of
expanded polystyrene (EPS). The blocks, once erected, create the form
onto which concrete is poured. After the concrete is cured, the forms
stay in place and provide insulation for the houses walls.
ECO-Block, the brand of ICFs that
Mitchell prefers, does not contain formaldehyde, asbestos or
fiberglass, he says. "The EPS used in ECO-Block is stable and
inert and wont break down over time. Its hypoallergenic. So the
quality of indoor air is improved. The ECO-Block also has high thermal
mass - the solid concrete core surrounded by insulation, inside and
out, acts like a buffer resisting temperature swings from day to night
and back again."
With mold a significant issue today,
Mitchell believes ICFs and their insulation properties offer another
important advantage to local home buyers.
Mitchell, who has primarily been a
stick-built (lumber) builder since he started his company in 1999,
researched ICFs extensively and decided to be one of the first
builders of concrete homes in the area.
In addition to the Germantown ICF home,
he has built one in Menomonee Falls and another in Caledonia.
According to the Portland Cement
Association, about 25 percent of the above grade, single family
residential market in the USA will be composed of concrete homes by
the end of 2003. The instability of energy prices, as well as the lack
of electricity and natural gas supplies in most markets has impacted
the growth of ICFs.
"As long as home owners seek
refuge from $350 a month energy bills and rising insurance rates
because of mold, ICFs will thrive," predicts Mitchell.