Housing Prices Dip to Pre-Bubble Levels

As the housing slump continues, prices in most areas have fallen dramatically. According to the most recent data, in the first quarter of 2008, only eight out of 330 metropolitan housing markets can now be considered overvalued. That’s down from 53 metro areas in mid-2006.

“We’ve covered a lot of territory in terms of restoring balance in the housing market,” said National City’s chief economist, Richard DeKaser. “The froth has been completely blown away.” 

In Stockton, Calif., the average price of a single-family home has fallen 35% in the past 24 months. In Las Vegas, home prices have come down nearly 20% in the same period.


New Code Compliance For Perma Crete

Perma Crete, an exterior cementious coating, is now code certified for both horizontal and vertical applications.

George Henderson, president and CEO of Quality Systems, Inc., which makes Perma Crete, says the product has successfully completed all the requirements to be certified for horizontal and vertical surface applications by the International Code Council’s Evaluation Service (ICC-ES). He claims it is the only surfacing product to have both certifications.

Perma Crete’s acrylic polymer cement compound can be applied over concrete, foam, masonry, aggregate, or steel, and has a compressive strength of more than 6,000 psi.


Creatherm Begins California Manufacturing

Creatherm, which markets a number of EPS-related products, has reached an agreement with Aptco LLC to manufacture their products in California. Previously, all Creatherm manufacturing locations had been east of the Mississippi River.

The agreement with Aptco creates additional production capacity, and also enables Creatherm to better service it’s growing customer base on the West Coast while reducing shipping expenses. 

Initially, Aptco will manufacture the S45 floor panel, a rigid foam board with raised knobs used in under slabs with radiant heating. The agreement also allows Aptco to manufacture new products currently in development.


2008 Home Starts Down 36%

Housing starts for 2008 are expected to be 36% lower than 2007 levels, the sharpest drop in three straight years of declines. 

According to a recent Portland Cement Association (PCA) report, the decline is due to a weak economy, tight credit, and a huge housing inventory that must be sold off before construction recovers.

“Despite large home price declines and improved affordability, sales remain sluggish and offer little hope that the inventory glut will be worked off anytime soon,” says PCA Chief Economist Ed Sullivan. 

Sullivan says current home inventories stand at a 10.5-month supply, nearly triple the 3.5-month supply that normally exists. And rising home foreclosures will add to the market’s inventory in 2008 and 2009.

The PCA now predicts further declines in 2009, with a recovery starting in 2010, although the hardest hit states, like California, Florida, Arizona, and Nevada may not see a turnaround until 2011 or 2012.


Fox Blocks Adds Mass. Facility

Fox Blocks, a division of Airlite Plastics Company has begun manufacturing at a second satellite plant in Northbridge, Mass.

The forms are also made in Orlando, Fla. and at the company’s flagship plant at its headquarters in Omaha, Neb.

“As Fox Blocks grows its ICF market share with factory direct shipments, additional manufacturing facilities will help ease freight costs and shorten delivery times to its customers throughout the U.S. and Canada,” says Dave Jackson, sales and marketing manager for the company.

As part of Fox Blocks’ expansion in the Northeast, the company has hired a sales representative, Bob Hearn, to focus on that region of the country. Hearn will be assisting Fox Blocks customers from his field office in Coventry, Conn.


USGBC to Change LEED Rating System

U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is revising the scoring method used in its trend-setting LEED green building certification system. 

LEED 2009 is intended to be the next evolution of the rating system, reducing carbon emissions, improving energy efficiency, and advancing other environmental and health goals. 

“When it was introduced in 2000, the LEED Green Building Rating System helped to spark a revolution that is changing the way we build and operate our offices, schools, hospitals and homes,” said Rick Fedrizzi, president, CEO and founder of the USGBC. “LEED 2009 resets the bar for green building leadership because the urgency of our mission has challenged the industry to move faster and reach further.”

Detailed information about the proposed changes can be found on USGBC’s Web site (www.usgbc.org). Additional information, including the integration of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) into LEED, will be added in late summer.


BuildBlock Expands Product Line

BuildBlock Building Systems now offers a number of ancillary products that complement it’s line of BuildBlock Insulating Concrete Forms (ICFs).

It now offers Form-A-Drain footing system, the Lite-Deck ICF floor and roof system, and Andersen windows and doors. 

“Our goal is provide our customers with everything they need to create an energy-efficient building envelope,” says Jason Fisher, BuildBlock business development manager. “These products are the perfect complement to our ICFs for accomplishing that purpose.”

CertainTeed Form-A-Drain is a patented 3-in-1 foundation solution that forms footings, provides an integrated drainage system, and can be easily adapted to vent radon where needed. Lite-Deck, manufactured by Lite-Form Technologies, is a light-weight stay-in-place EPS form used to construct concrete floors, roofs, and decks for commercial and residential construction. Andersen windows and doors are rated “among the best” by consumers in a 2007 J.D. Powers customer satisfaction survey. Andersen’s StormWatch line of coastal windows and doors are especially well-suited for “Fortified” ICF structures.

Product and ordering information can be found on the MyBuildBlock Online Ordering System available through the company’s website at www.buildBlock.com.

BuildBlock also Launches 12th Manufacturing Facility

BuildBlock Building Systems has expanded manufacturing again, partnering with Plymouth Foam in the state of Minnesota. The move brings the number of manufacturing facilities to an even dozen. 

The company claims it now has more manufacturing locations than any other North American ICF. “Today’s unprecedented fuel costs make this a tremendous benefit to our customers,” said BuildBlock CEO Mike Garrett. “We continue to invest in manufacturing in order to save our customers on their freight expenses.”

Plymouth Foam is located in Becker, Minn., about 50 miles northwest of Minneapolis/St. Paul. They began manufacturing the BuildBlock line of ICFs in June.

“Minnesota has the highest ICF sales in the country,” Garrett said. “In the past, freight costs have affected our ability to be truly competitive within this market. Our new facility in Becker will make BuildBlock more competitive, as well as affordable and convenient for our customers.”

BuildBlock’s other facilities are in Alabama, California, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Massachusetts, Missouri, Utah, Wisconsin, and two plants in Idaho. They also have foreign licensees in Europe and the Middle East.


IntegraSpec ICF Grows Again

IntegraSpec has added two employees at its Kingston. Ontario, head office.

Danielle Boulianne will be assisting with orders, logistics, accounting, and customer service. She has an education in computer networking and office administration with field experience in high volume customer oriented business.

Dave Kellam is now manager of distribution and sales, and will work with new distributors.


Greenblock Fire Test Results

Greenblock® Worldwide Corporation has received a 4-hour fire resistance rating for their 6-inch core insulated concrete form (ICF) assembly.

The company had previously completed evaluation testing on its 4-inch core ICF wall system and achieved a two-hour rating. 

“We were confident that we would get a 3-hour with our 6” block,” said Steve Reiter, who handles building code issues for Greenblock. “However, the 4-hour rating was a pleasant surprise.” 

The test was conducted by Intertek Testing Services, an internationally recognized testing agency.

With a 4-hour fire resistance evaluation, Greenblock’s 6-inch core ICFs are well-suited to meet the strictest of commercial building designs. Educational, government and healthcare facilities all look for wall system designs that provide the maximum protection against weather, pollutants and fire. Greenblock’s 6-inch core ICF wall system easily exceeds these requirements and still offers the design flexibility found more commonly in the smaller concrete core ICFs. 

“We’ve now effectively brought together the two most important aspects of structural design for the architects and engineers of these projects,” said Reiter. “Maximum protection and structural integrity along with design flexibility and appearance.”

The complete fire resistance evaluation report is available on the technical section of the Greenblock website, www.greenblock.com.


ICF Homebuilder On “Top 400” List

Homecrete Homes, the nation’s largest ICF homebuilder, has once again made Professional Builder magazine’s list of America’s 400 largest home builders.

While most of the builders on the list have seen significant decreases in revenue and closings between 2006 and 2007, Homecrete actually moved up in the rankings from 372 to 366.

Based in Stuart, Fla. the company is currently active on Florida’s Treasure Coast and California’s Kern County, building more than 300 homes per year.

“It’s a buyers market, so you have to offer a product that sets you apart from the competition,” said Robert Cenk, vice president of operations for Homecrete. “Every Homecrete home is built with Greenblock Insulated Concrete Forms, which provide our homeowners with a house that can withstand the worst of our Florida weather. The ICF walls also provide R-values that are triple that of concrete blocks, which means significantly lower utility bills”.

Homecrete has six models to choose from, and also builds custom homes and commercial projects with ICF technology.


Green Building Helps During a Slowdown

Attendees at the National Green Building Show, held May 11-13 in New Orleans, were told that the vast majority of homeowners are oblivious to the options and benefits of building green.

But at a time when construction is nearing a standstill in many parts of the country, contractors who know how to build and sell “green housing” are doing remarkably better than their competitors. And when the housing industry recovers, green business “appears headed for a galloping rate of growth,” according one a market analyst at the show.

“We have hit the tipping point for builders going green,” said Harvey M. Bernstein, who oversaw the latest green building survey conducted by McGraw Hill Construction. “Green is driving a lot of what really is happening in this marketplace.”  Forty percent of those surveyed by McGraw Hill said that the down market has made it easier to market green homes, and 16% said that the housing slump has made it much easier, said Bernstein, noting many respondents said it was keeping their businesses alive during the slowdown.

The report states that green building is projected to double over the next five years, reaching a 12% to 20% share of the U.S. housing market with $40 billion to $70 billion in sales in 2012.

Green homes are defined by McGraw Hill as those containing energy-efficient, indoor air quality, water-efficient, resource-efficient and site management features. More information on the green building survey can be found at: analyticsstore.construction.com.


Housing Slump Worst In Post-WWII-Era

Remember when construction was booming and demand for concrete created cement shortages across the country? 

A record consumption of 128 million metric tons was reached in 2005. Peak-to-trough declines in consumption will total nearly 30 million metric tons, marking one of the worst industry downturns since the Great Depression. The U.S. economy is suffering from a severe economic weakness and its impact on cement consumption and the construction industry will not be mild, according to the latest Portland Cement Association (PCA) forecast of cement, concrete, and construction. 

In 2008, portland cement consumption is expected to drop 11 percent, followed by an additional 5.5 percent in 2009. PCA predicts total cement consumption in this year to be 101.7 million metric tons.

“We are currently in the third year of a four-year industry contraction that began in 2006,” Edward Sullivan, PCA chief economist said. “High fuel prices, slow job creation, and tight lending standards will all adversely impact the entire spectrum of construction activity.”

Sullivan anticipates that while harsh residential conditions continue to act as a significant drag on cement consumption, the nonresidential sector will also see large declines for the next two years.

“Although it grew nearly 11 percent in 2007, nonresidential construction spending is expected to fall almost eight percent in 2008 and another 12 percent in 2009,” Sullivan said. “Nonresidential construction is closely tied to economic activity. As the economy softens, the expected return on commercial investments decline, reducing the incentive to build and expand.”

An additional slowdown in public construction, which accounts for nearly half of total cement consumption in the United States, is predicted for 2009 and will continue through 2010.

PCA targets the second half of 2010 with the trend of strong growth in cement consumption. By this time, according to the PCA report, all regions of the United States should be experiencing a recovery in housing and nonresidential construction will be on the upswing.

NRMCA Manual Prevents Backing Accidents

The National Ready Mixed Concrete Association (NRMCA) offers a Backing Accident Prevention Kit to help reduce accidents in the ready mixed concrete industry. 

An NRMCA study has shown that 11% of a company’s truck mixer fleet will have a backing accident each year. Many of these accidents happen even with a spotter at the job site, notes NRMCA Managing Director of Compliance David Ayers, because not all spotters know the hand and arm signals to back up a mixer.       

“The backing accident rate is unacceptable and we must address this serious safety issue immediately” said Gary Mullings, NRMCA’s senior vice president of operations and compliance.

Backing accidents can lead to higher insurance premiums, damaged equipment, and injuries.

The kit includes a hand and arm signal reference card in English and Spanish.