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Concrete Construction: Using Today’s Technology to MakeYesterday’s Dreams Come True

Think of today’s technology and maybe your mind jumps to iPods or Blackberries. (Then again, perhaps you’re still trying to figure out how to attach a document to an e-mail and send it to a colleague.) Suffice it to say, we all have different levels of understanding when it comes to the technologies that have become a part of our everyday lives. Technological improvements occur every day and impact every industry, including our own. And, so it comes as no surprise that Concrete Homes Council (CHC) and Concrete Foundations Association member Poured Concrete Walls of Florida, owned by Deb and Randy Friemoth, works hand-in-hand with member Wall-Ties & Forms, Inc. to advance technologies in the concrete construction industry.

To understand how far our business has come, let’s look back to the early 20th century. In 1906, Thomas Edison, known best for inventing the electric light bulb, startled the world with plans to mass-produce low-cost concrete housing for America’s working class. After Edison built the prototype monolithically poured house, cast by Frank Lambie of the New York Steel Form Company, he gave license to anyone to turn out the design. Lambie partnered with Charles Ingersoll, of the dollar pocket watch fortune, and launched plans to build 40 homes in Union, New Jersey.

Each home was constructed in a single day by monolithically pouring the homes vertically and horizontally. The homes, which still stand, were built with fl at roofs, a cubic shape, plain frames for the windows, and virtually no ornamentation. Unfortunately the project didn’t go as well as anticipated. In short, the technologies and the vision needed to make these durable and affordable homes attractive were nonexistent. In the end, only 11 homes were actually constructed, yet Edison’s idea made history.

Fast-forward to today to see how our industry has evolved. At the Portland Cement Association’s web site you will learn how technology impacts every facet of the concrete industry from cement manufacturing processes and product standards to energy and environmental conservation. Scan the CHC web site and find out about concrete contractors who are moving forward with insulated wall, moisture control and self-leveling technologies, lightweight forming systems, and decorative applications for both interior and exterior uses. From beginning to end, new concrete construction technologies have increased our capability to create homes of unsurpassed function, form, safety and energy efficiency.

A glowing example of progress is Poured Concrete Walls of Florida, located north of Daytona Beach in Palm Coast, Florida. Owners Deb and Randy Friemoth, opened their second business after thirteen successful years owning and operating a traditional concrete foundation contracting business in Waterford, Wisconsin, Walls Are Us. The Friemoths built several solid concrete homes in the Wisconsin market and decided to expand to Florida’s east coast to capitalize on the state’s healthy housing market and to offer an alternative to concrete block construction, the predominate method of single-family home construction in that region.

When Poured Concrete Walls of Florida emerged on the region’s concrete home construction scene, they joined some of the major players in the concrete construction industry. These “big” players in the business include DiVosta (a division of Pulte Homes), EH Building Group and Mercedes Homes, all of which have poured hundreds of solid concrete walls using either tunnel or aluminum forms In their two-plus-year tenure, Poured Concrete Walls of Florida has poured hundreds of exterior walls for builders constructing concrete homes in Florida. The Friemoths have also built four solid concrete homes in the Palm Coast area. Working with forms manufacturer, Wall-Ties & Forms of Shawnee, Kansas, the Friemoths consistently utilize newly designed forms — including radius forms — to include architectural elements usually constructed of wood, concrete block and/or foam. For their latest residential project, 3 Ocean Ridge, they monolithically poured the perimeter walls and the vertical and horizontal posts and beams. The new home is two stories with 26-foot walls, pillars and column headers and features a lanai (veranda) that was poured at the same time.

Radius forms are nothing new to Carl Engelken, vice-president of Wall-Ties & Forms. “We started the production of radius forms with swimming pools and every so often, at a customer’s request, arranged to provide column forms. Because customer demand for radius forms increased, we purchased the equipment to manufacturer these forms ourselves,” says Engelken. “And, whereas five to ten years ago, we were involved with the occasional radius form, we now have a set of radius forms on our schedule every week.” Engelken adds that any shape or decorative element a homebuilder or contractor wants today is available to them and can be included in the monolithic pour. “From swimming pools, walls and ceilings to offsets around windows, we can create forms so customers can do it in one pour.”

All that Thomas Edison dreamed of many years ago—a home that offers quality, safety, satisfaction and more—is within reach. If he were alive today, Edison would have to marvel at the concrete construction’s technological advancements. Here in the 21st century, concrete homes offer value, beauty, comfort, and security in all price ranges and in designs. The famous inventor was on the right track. Now if someone could just figure out how to make good on some of his other ideas…any takers for the concrete piano?

By Wendy Shannon and Libbie Hough, Op5 Creative in Atlanta, Ga.

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Concrete FACTS, a publication of the Concrete Foundations Association, is THE voice for residential concrete industry news, market intelligence, business strategies, technical solutions, product information, and other resources for professionals in the cast-in-place concrete industry. Subscriptions to Concrete FACTS is available to anyone involved or interested in the residential concrete industry as a service to your industry. Please contact CFA Headquarters to find out more about your free subscription or Email Us