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Alternative Building Systems Grand Island NE

The confusion between nominal, clear-wall, whole-wall and dynamic R-values illustrates the problem of comparing building wall systems. What is needed is an apples-to-apples testing program by an independent agency.

Lacy Construction Company
(308) 384-2866
3356 W Old Hwy 30
Grand Island, NE
 
Central Nebr Home Builders Assn
(308) 381-1101
131 N Grace Ave
Grand Island, NE
 
Anderson Construction
(308) 384-8598
4257 Utah Ave
Grand Island, NE
 
G & T Construction
(308) 389-3451
4761 W One-R Rd
Grand Island, NE
 
Husker Sales & Construction Inc
(308) 381-2673
2018 Kent Ave
Grand Island, NE
 
Absolute Construction
(308) 398-2111
316 E Capital Ave
Grand Island, NE
 
Hooker Brothers Construction Co
(308) 384-2030
2510 S North Rd
Grand Island, NE
 
Builders Warehouse
(308) 382-9656
824 S Webb Rd
Grand Island, NE
 
Fox Construction Inc
(308) 384-9184
604 Sweetwood Dr
Grand Island, NE
 
Heider Construction
(308) 384-9492
4148 Springview Dr
Grand Island, NE
 

Alternative Building Systems

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How do various alternative building systems compare in price and performance?

Question: How do Rasta block (a concrete form system), aerated autoclaved concrete (AAC) and Durisol (blocks made from recycled wood) compare in price and performance? Performance criteria can include insulating value, structural strength, resistance to termite burrowing, resistance to water, vapor permeability/breathability and anything else you can think of that matters. I'm also interested in comparison of those materials with the Strata International Group's insulated composite described in your May/June 2006 edition, though that product may be too new for good price data. Thanks for any advice you can offer.

David Drooz

Raleigh, N.C.

Answer: The confusion between nominal, clear-wall, whole-wall and dynamic R-values illustrates the problem of comparing building wall systems. What is needed is an apples-to-apples testing program by an independent agency. The closest approximation to date is that of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory's (ORNL) Building Envelopes Program.

ORNL has tested the whole-wall R-values of a number of wall systems, including conventional wood frame, steel frame, log, adobe and earth blocks, structural insulated panels (SIPs) and insulated concrete forms (ICFs). To view the results, log on to http://www.ornl.gov/sci/roofs+walls and click on Hotbox Test R-value Database. However, with dozens of ICF products on the market, ORNL will never be able to test them all.

The next best source I know of is Supplement D-1 of the Washington State Energy Code (download at http://www.energy.wsu.edu/ftp-ep/pubs/code/bfg/2004/SupplementD_2004.pdf ), which lists the whole-wall R-values of 19 different ICFs.

Unfortunately, the extremely complex nature of heat flow through walls and roofs, which depends not only on the insulating property of the insulation fill but also on the air-leakiness, the presence of heat short-circuits such as framing and rebar, the amount and location of mass, and the local climate, allows for dubious claims by zealous proponents of any system. My advice is to take any and all claims by manufacturers with a heavy dose of skepticism and rely instead on the experiences of as many customers of the product as possible.

Any system approved by your local building inspector will prove structurally adequate. Any product containing wood fiber may be a target for termites, however. You can ensure an adequate interior vapor barrier (necessary in heating climates) simply by priming the interior surfaces with vapor barrier paint (any paint with a perm rating of 1.0 or less).

Cost comparisons are meaningful only when they include labor. Ask manufacturers for the names of contractors experienced in the use of their products. And, as always, get at least three estimates with stipulations on maximum allowed cost overrun.

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