San Diego Habitat for Humanity chooses ECO-Block for Fire Protection

12 September 2004

Dallas, TX. – When Rosemarie Michelsen escaped from the fire ravaged hills of Southern California in October 2003 with only what she could pack in her pickup, she vowed to return to the hills and rebuild – this time with a material that wouldn’t burn. She also wanted something nontoxic and sustainable. Less than a year later, her wish is becoming reality.

Michelsen, an 80 year old kinesiologist who worked out of her home, had been unable to obtain fire insurance because she didn’t live close enough to a fire hydrant. The financial loss of the fire was devastating and a new home seemed out of reach. Yet on this Friday morning in September, thanks to a unique combination of partners and events, Michelsen’s future looked bright as she watched concrete walls being poured for her new house.

To help the victims of the fire, the San Diego Foundation, through a gift from Citibank, teamed up with San Diego Habitat for Humanity (SDHFH) to rebuild this home, one of 23 burned homes SDHFH will rebuild. Coincidentally, Jim Niehoff of the Portland Cement Association (PCA) and Chairman of the Insulating Concrete Form Association ( ICFA) Industry Relations and Public Affairs Committee was looking for a home to showcase concrete construction as a project for the association’s fall meeting in San Diego. The fit was perfect. Says Niehoff: “Not only does the insulating concrete form technology offer the fire resistance, but it is also well suited to volunteer labor, as the blocks are lightweight and easy to build with.”

ECO-Block, LLC , chosen to provide the Insulating Concrete Form blocks, was also able to draw on its sizeable resources to help complete the project. Says Cheryl Keenan, Executive Director of San Diego Habitat for Humanity (or SDHFH): “It was wonderful to work with ECO-Block and the entire ICFA team. They really pulled through for us. Starting with ECO-Block’s in-house engineer and ending with a full crew of workers – distributors, trainers and the regional sales manager – they all rolled up their sleeves and worked alongside our volunteers.” The walls for the 1388 square foot home were built in just 4 days.

The ECO-Block forms used on this project have been tested to provide a 4 hr fire rating with a 6″ concrete core. These polystyrene foam panels are stacked just like large blocks ( 4 ft wide x 16″ high) to create a form for reinforcing steel and poured concrete. They provide not only durability and resistance to anything nature can throw at it, but also a superior insulation that translated into energy savings and an incredibly quiet, peaceful interior. Walls can be finished with sheetrock on the inside and traditional exterior finishes, such as siding or stucco on the outside.

Sam Gallego, Manager of Business Development of Cemex, who arranged the concrete, has been a big promoter of ICF technology. “With today’s public awareness and concern for energy efficiency and safety from natural disasters, insulating concrete form systems (ICFs) along with reinforced concrete walls have been promoted and proven as the way to build a better home. Energy costs have been reduced and homes have been saved from destruction.”

ECO-Block LLC is one of the world’s most innovative and experienced providers of insulating concrete form (ICF) systems. The Texas-based company has developed the strongest, most versatile and technologically advanced ICF systems available for both commercial and residential construction. With manufacturing strategically located throughout North America and overseas locations, ECO-Block has a true coast-to-coast presence. ECO-Block offers unparalleled support in training, code compliance and technical assistance. ICFs offer a cost-effective building solution that is mold-free, durable and fire-resistant. These buildings have withstood tornadoes, fires and driving rain. Use of ECO-Block’s ICF technology creates super-insulated, monolithic concrete walls that save energy, keep noise out and improve air quality. For the contractor, ECO-Block’s unique panel system offers ease of construction and design adaptability. With all these benefits, it’s easy to see why ICF technology is rapidly integrating into mainstream commercial and residential developments. Visit our website to learn more.

San Diego Habitat for Humanity (SDHFH) is a nonprofit organization that to date has enabled 54 local families in need to achieve the American dream of homeownership. Currently twenty additional homes are under construction or in predevelopment. Through its Rebuilding Community program, SDHFH will rebuild over twenty homes in San Diego County that were destroyed by the October 2003 wildfires. Habitat homes are built with donations of money, materials and labor.

Vera Novak
Environmental Specialist
ECO-Block, LLC