2016 Specialty Application Winner

Over the years, the ICF Builder Awards have received a number of innovative projects that didn’t fit well in any existing category.  In order to give these projects the attention they deserve, we’ve introduced a new category: Specialty Applications. This project earned top honors

This project consists of a detached garage with a two-story personal chapel, plus a separate ICF pool house. Both utilized innovative ICF construction techniques and top-quality craftsmanship and finishes.

José Calzada, the owner of the property, is a professional architect well-acquainted with the advantages of ICFs. In addition to several banks and retail stores, he designed his own company offices with Amvic ICF, and that’s what he used on this job as well. He served as his own general contractor. He says, “The use of ICF in this project eliminated several other trades and allowed for the job to be fast-tracked to the owner’s preference.” It also allowed the project to come in at an extremely cost-effective price of $150 per sq. ft.

One of the most unique features of the garage and chapel is two-story walls that are deliberately canted several degrees off of vertical, achieving a tapered silhouette that brings to mind Spanish mission architecture. The style is further accented by the finishes chosen: salvaged brick that closely imitates centuries-old adobe, tiled interior, and a set of antique ornamental doors from India.

However, pouring walls deliberately out of plumb required careful engineering. In the end, it was supported by regular turnbuckle bracing—set 24″ on center instead of the usual five or six feet—and filled in smaller lifts to allow the concrete to set as much as possible before pouring the next layer of concrete.

The pool was equally innovative. Inspired by a trip to Europe, Calzada wanted to replicate the atmosphere of a cozy grotto. He leaned toward a barrel-vault roof, but due to humidity concerns, he wanted foam-and-concrete. He got both by using AmDeck’s foam deck planks to create one of the first curved ICF roofs ever. Getting the concrete to stay in place would prove difficult, as the roof had a 30% slope at the eaves. Calzada says, “To remedy this issue, the roof was poured with a row of 15 men side-by-side with shovels, throwing the concrete towards the top of the barrel.”

Similar to the chapel, the interior of the pool house is finished with intricate masonry work. The ceiling is finished with cedar planks. A fire pit beside the pool is surrounded by color-changing LEDS to match any mood.

Calzada says he designed the pool room to be a getaway space, and in the months since completion, he’s been very favorably impressed with how ICFs contribute to the intended tranquility and calmness.

The finished structures are surrounded by mature trees, which were carefully preserved during construction. In some cases, the distance between the trees and the ICF walls are as little as four inches.

“It took a lot of risk, thinking, and attention to detail to accomplish,” Calzada says. “This project has tested the limits of ICF construction and was an eye-opener for all parties involved, expanding their skill sets and achieving new design elements that were previously avoided in the past. The success in using ICF construction to build the barrel vault ceiling and slanted walls will expand the future possibilities of ICF construction in the region and will serve as a great example to encourage others to look for new and better ways to build more efficiently.”

Project Statistics

Location: San Antonio, Texas
Type: Pool House and Private Chapel
Size: 1,500 sq. ft. (floor)
ICF Use: 4,000 sq. ft.
Total Construction: 75 days
ICF Installation time: 28 days


Construction Team

Owner: Jose Calzada
General Contractor + Architect: Architectura SA
Engineer: Kocsis Engineering
ICF Installer: ICF Constructors, LLC
Form Distributor: Amvic Direct
ICF System: Amvic and AmDeck

Fast Facts

  • One-of-a-kind design features
  • ICF barrel-vault roof
  • Slanted 2-story ICF walls
  • Built around mature trees


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