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2006 BEST HEAVY CommErcial
Grande Caribbean Condominiums: Orange Beach, Ala.

Project Statistics

  • Project Name: Grande Caribbean Condominiums
  • Location: Orange Beach, Ala.
  • Total building size: 160,000 sq. ft
  • Cost: $7.9 million
  • Project Start-to-Finish Time: 12 months
  • ICF Block:  IntegraSpec

Construction Team

  • Owner: Grande Caribbean, LLC
  • Architect: David Lindsey
  • General Contractor: Coastal Builders, Inc.
  • ICF Installer: Coastal Builders, Inc.

The Grand Caribbean, a 6-story, 150,000-sq.-ft condominium complex in Orange Beach, Ala., is proving that ICF construction is a perfect choice for multi-family construction.

            The beachfront property has withstood two major hurricanes since it was completed in early 2003 with minimal damage. But architect David Lindsay—who also supplied the IntegraSpec ICFs for the project—claims the owners are more pleased with their low energy bills, soundproof walls, and maintenance-free units.

“People are always looking for maintenance-free property,” says Lindsay, “It’s one of the hidden costs of beachfront property. The fact that ICFs can minimize that is attractive to many owners.”

“I get a lot of compliments from the owners,” Lindsay says. I went to an owners group meeting about a year after it was finished, and most said their bills were about $25 a month. But that wasn’t what impressed them. What they wanted to talk about was how quiet it was.” Owners of units that sit less than 50 feet from a 6-lane highway say they can’t hear the noise once the door shuts.

All of the walls, including the interior demising walls between units, are constructed from ICFs. Also, most of the architectural reliefs on the exterior of the Victorian-style building are monolithic concrete, created with differing thicknesses of ICFs.

The result is that the building was 100% pre-sold before it was completed. Investors who bought units at $120,000 during pre-sales were selling for $200,000 before construction was complete.

ICFs construction was a major reason for the project’s success. “It helped with the initial sales; it helped with the resales,” confirms Lindsay. “Sales people were marketing the condos with core samples of the ICF walls sitting on their desks. It’s quite impressive to see that 6-inch core of reinforced concrete, knowing it will surround you on all sides.” Three years later, listings for a 1 bed, 1 bath condo start at $320,200.

Thriving in the Hurricane Zone

Located halfway between Pensacola, Fla., and Gulf Shores, the structure has been battered by hurricanes, including Katrina in 2005

“We were ground zero for Ivan,” he says. Rated on the high end of a Category 3 hurricane, the storm completely destroyed nearly all the wood frame buildings near the coast. The Grand Caribbean suffered zero structural damage.

“The only thing we lost were just a few pieces of Hardie-plank siding due to installation problems,” says Lindsay. “The roof also suffered minor damage for the same reasons. But there was absolutely no damage to the ICF.

 “There was water 7- to 8-feet deep in the lower level [a parking garage] but it never reached the living spaces. We went through two days after the storm and certified that it was safe to live in.”

When Katrina roared through last fall, the building suffered zero damage.

“Delicate Ornamental Work”

Lindsey says that the exterior look of the building is a testament to the flexibility of ICFs. “It doesn’t limit design creativity,” he says. “One of the things that we were trying to prove is that you can do delicate ornamental work using the formwork itself.”

All of the architectural details—the octagonal tower, the pilasters, columns, cornices, and dentils—were created with ICFs. “I can step out a horizontal band by using a thicker block. Or I can make a cornice by stepping up the core size from 8 to10 to 12 inches and crown it with brickledges. It’s all solid, monolithic concrete, but it doesn’t look bulky. It looks like a light Victorian hotel.”

Ease of Construction

ICFs helped during the construction phase as well. Because the foam blocks are so light, the jobsite didn’t need an overhead crane. Materials were moved with a forklift, and a pump truck was scheduled for the pours. “One of the advantages was that we only paid the pumper when he was onsite,” said Lindsay. “A crane is there all the time, so you pay all the time.”

Lindsay says his business is increasing 50% to 60% a year. “I've given up my architectural practice to focus just on training installers, distributing materials and showing people that this is something they need to be doing,” he says.


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