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News / Past Articles

"Sunday School Construction"

Southern California builders serve the ministry by erecting multi-storied dorms
made of ICFs at a private school.

By John Wyatt

Part of Azusa Pacific University's history has been to continuously develop its
programs, curriculum and expand campus area. Its latest progression comes from
the production of a multi-storied building that will serve as dormitories.
Constructed using insulating concrete forms (ICF), the dorms are the biggest
project in the Southwestern United States using these energy-efficient systems.
The APU is a Christian liberal arts college in Azusa whose roots trace back to
1899. Initially a Bible college that prepared students for evangelical
purposes, the institution expanded its programs to offer bachelor, master, and
doctorate degrees in nursing, technology, Western art, as well as fields in
theology and behavioral science. Following the university's lineage of growth
and expansion, current President Jon Wallace's latest projects included the
erection of a new dormitory system on campus.

A century strong and endeavored

To match the existing architecture built 100 years back, the university's
architectural planning staff had wanted to use masonry for the building's
structure. Learning of the Trinity dorm project, Russ Wiersma, sales and
technical support for Paramount Ready Mix Concrete, of Santa Fe Springs, Calif.,
made a "cold call" to Rick Byrd Engineering, of Ontario, Calif., to offer
information on an alternative energy-efficient system that could meet all the
specs for the five-story, 100,000-square-foot facility. Contacting general
contractor Commerce Construction Co., of City of Industry, Calif., Wiersma and
ICF manufacturer Arxx Building Products? (of Cobourg, Ontario) Regional Manager
Randy Daniels had arranged a presentation to display the ICF systems to Commerce
Executive Vice President john Burroughs, APU'S Architect Troy Adday, and
Facilities and Planning Jeff Worthy.

As reported in Walls & Ceilings? December 2002 issue, the rise of ICF
manufacturing rose by 29 percent in 2001, and although reports have not been
released yet from the National Association of Home Builders, it is predicted
that 2002 results suggest a 30 percent increase, according to Executive Director
Joseph Lyman of the Insulating Concrete Form Association.

In California, a state recently called attention to for utility costs jettisoned
well above normal, builders are looking or "green" materials (to appeal to the
progressive thinking enviro-friendly architects) and strong energy efficiency
(to help the utility payer). ICFs provide a relief with a strong argument for
its assets. The arguments one can give for its use consists ? not wholly ? of
that many of the products used are recyclable, such as the steel rebar and the
concrete is recycled (in many aspects); expanded polystyrene can be recycled,
which is what the ICFs are made out of.

Another aspect is how far building materials have to travel to the job site.
Following guidelines established by the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership
in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) criteria, those projects that
demonstrate at least 20 percent of materials used are within a 500 miles radius
receive favorable credit, cutting down on the fuel used in shipping. ICFs
typically are manufactured within 100 to 150 miles and ready mixed concrete is
produced 10 to 15 miles of most project sites. Also to boot, when using LEED,
one can get up to 10 points in thermal value for ICFs.

So, once the benefits are defined and explained to the developer, the next step
is instruction if the system is a novelty to the work force. With Arxx now part
of the construction ensemble, training had to begin before construction on the
frame commenced.

"We had to train and prepare the vice president of operations, superintendent
and two lead foremen on what to expect in a full day training orientation
class," says Wiersma. "We also supplied the Engineer Rick Byrd, of Commerce,
Architect Jim Robertson and the City of Azusa, all the ICBO approvals, CAD
details and other literature to prepare for drawing and building this dormitory.
Arxx sent Technical Manager Mark Rush for a few days to help me train about six
key construction workers on how to use the system."

Two-part harmony

Arxx supplies a two-part series of training that can be completed in one day
that is held both off and on site. The first level of the training is classroom
style that covers the construction process and the second part is generally on
the job site.

A little more than 10,000 ICF forms were used, along with the accessory
materials for the Trinity building. Commerce supplied the concrete, steel
reinforcement rebar and various other materials. Finding a guiding partner in
Arxx and Paramount, Commerce self performed the labor and supplied its own
equipment or rented it from its own in-house construction equipment rental

As the construction unfolded, particular obstacles presented themselves. During
the installation of the ICFs and while erecting a scaffolding system, the winter
term had yet to finish with a spring term waiting as its predecessor's heels. A
sweeping vow of silence was observed by the 30-something different
subcontractors, which can be a bit restraining for any concentration of workers
that size.

"There's a site in the middle of the university surrounded by students and
faculty that make access very difficult," says Commence's John Burroughs. "The
staging is very difficult. Work hours had to be considered because of adjacent

"The hardest things about the job was training a large crew to be efficient with
building material they had not seen before," says Wiersma. "The problem with
construction was that we needed to achieve a height, which the building had
already been drawn with before Arxx was considered for the wall material.
Arxx's forms are 16 3/4 inches tall. We needed a wall height of 9 feet by 11 1⁄2
inches. Arxx has height adjusters, which are 3 3/8 inches tall. We had to
incorporate two height adjusters into the wall to achieve the desired height.
At the speed the contractor had to pour the walls, and the concrete mix design
used, in certain areas, we had some deflection problems. The walls would bulge
a little at the points where height adjusters were used. We later just rasped
them flush and drywall was then attached."

With the interior now complete and the facility in its completed stages, the
Trinity dorms will soon host its residents in the fall. So, how does the Arxx
system look next to 100-year old architecture?

"Concrete, if protected from the elements, will last over 100 years," says
Wiersma. "It is a California-type design because of the stucco exterior in
different colors along with split-face masonry."

Wiersma explains other features and benefits of the facility. He says the webs
are recyclable with lumber only used as form or reinforcement. Trinity's
insides are primarily a concrete and steel building along with the polystyrene
as the insulation.

"Because of the thermal protection, the air conditioning equipment could be cut
in size and won't have to work as hard to condition the air," says Wiersma.
"The manufacturing of these forms is light industrial and makes no pollution.
The process, which the forms are made, is steam injection. There are no CFCS,
HFCS or formaldehyde used in production. It is an inert material. Because the
product is so light, (about 6 pounds per form), the trucks transporting the
product use less fuel and don't work as hard putting less pollution in the air.
The waste from construction is also light, so the trash trucks will be lighter


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