Couple credits ECO-Block for saving their lives

07 June 2004

Wichita, Kan. – As Randy and Linda Robbins watched a powerful thunderstorm approach their new home on the outskirts of Attica, Kan., a tornado dropped from the sky. Within seconds, their lives changed forever.

“We’d been looking through our window, watching the storm,” says Linda Robbins. “Suddenly, the front door blew open and we headed toward the basement.”

But Robbins remembered that her bathroom windows were open. She ran down the hallway and pushed on the door. “It pushed me back twice,” she says. “I gave up and raced downstairs.”

Powerful winds tore the roof from their home and leveled all the buildings around it. “If it weren’t for the ECO-Block walls, we wouldn’t be here right now,” she says.

Television viewers worldwide watched a video of that roof being taken from the Robbins’ home. The dramatic footage, filmed by storm chaser Scott McPartland, was played repeatedly on newscasts after several tornados struck Kansas on the night of May 12. Many newscasters mistakenly reported the Robbins’ home as vacant and lifted from its foundation into the twister.

The roof was secured with hurricane ties. While structural engineers try to determine the reasons behind its destruction, the Robbins remain thankful.

“I saw what a tornado from the same storm did to a wood frame home,” says Robbins. “It ripped the floor out and filled the basement with debris. We’re very lucky we decided to build with ECO-Block.”

Many builders, architects and engineers in disaster-prone regions are incorporating ECO-Block insulating concrete forms (ICFs) into their construction plans. This innovative wall system dramatically increases structural performance during severe weather and can cut energy bills in half.

“Funny, safety was a secondary consideration when we chose to build with ECO-Block,” says Randy Robbins. “For us, the greatest benefit was its energy efficiency. Yet we’re alive today because of these walls.”

Wichita-based ICF Solutions, a subsidiary of Ritchie Companies, distributes ECO-Block throughout Kansas and surrounding states. It provides builders, developers, architects and engineers with innovative building options to dramatically increase structural performance during tornados and windstorms.

“Nationwide, more and more builders are turning to ECO-Block,” says Tom Rives, vice president, ICF Solutions. “Concrete walls provide the kind of structural integrity that can better shelter people from not only tornados, but hurricanes and wildfires. These benefits make building with ECO-Block ICFs an excellent choice.”

The Institute for Business & Home Safety’s (IBHS) Fortified… for safer living program, which supports the use of ICFs, specifies construction, design and landscaping guidelines that increase a home’s resistance to natural disasters. Homes must meet specific criteria to be recognized through the program. Its guidelines are tailored to meet the needs of different geographic regions, such as hurricanes in the southeastern United States and tornadoes in the Midwest.

The nonprofit organization, an initiative of the insurance industry, recognizes that safety-conscious consumers are driving the market for disaster-resistant shelter and seeks to educate building and real estate professionals on better construction practices and materials.

“We’re impressed with the superior wind-load capacity of an ICF wall and other benefits that strengthen structural integrity, including resistance to fire and fewer problems with water damage,” says Chuck Vance, IBHS “Fortified” program administrator.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offers information on disaster mitigation and ICF building through guides such as Taking Shelter from the Storm, Building a Safe Room Inside Your House and Design and Construction Guidance for Community Shelters. These publications underscore the benefits of ICF construction and stand as a resource for community officials, builders and consumers.

The Ritchie name has been associated with construction materials and services for almost 150 years. Today, Ritchie Companies serves the construction market at virtually every level, from the homeowner to the federal government. It offers asphalt and concrete paving both locally and in an ever-broadening area throughout the Midwest, ready-mix concrete, aggregates, and recycled construction material.
ECO-Block, the leader in insulating concrete form technology, incorporates a state-of-the-art concept, using expanded polystyrene (EPS) panels that are assembled into forms and then filled with concrete. Once the concrete cures, the panels remain in place as a permanent part of the building, providing built-in insulation. Use of ECO-Block’s ICF technology creates super-insulated, monolithic concrete walls that save energy, keep noise out and improve air quality.

Greater fire, wind and weather resistance also help make ECO-Block buildings more durable and secure than those using conventional construction methods. The use of ECO-Block ICF systems reduces reliance on wood products, helping protect our threatened forests. ICF technology is rapidly integrating into mainstream commercial and residential construction. In 1998, 36,000 (1 percent ) new homes benefited from ICFs. Industry projections for 2003 estimate that approximately 108,000 (3.2 percent) homes will take advantage of ICF technology.

Vera Novak, LEED AP™
Environmental Specialist
ECO-Block, LLC

Robin Hartzell
Greteman Group
Account Planner
316.263.1004, ext. 113