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Two companies in Geronimo, Oklahoma turn ideas into concrete plans

From The Lawton Constitution, May 23, 2006

by Scott Rains, Staff Writer
srains@lawton-constitution.com

GERONIMO, Okla.— A progressive view of construction must be mixed into the local water supply.

The community supported — by a 71 percent margin — passage of a proposition for a concrete, domed school and gymnasium during a school bond vote earlier this month. Now, the residential development of Geronimo Estates is the testing ground for what could soon be the vanguard of housing especially suited for the needs of Oklahoma homeowners and buyers.

“I think we’re on the cutting edge of something beneficial here and throughout the country,” Alford Hennessee said. Hennessee, owner of Hennessee Realty, is developing Geronimo Estates on the north edge of town. Hennessee and partners Gene Simmons and Mark Simmons have formed Okie Homes.

The first endeavor for Okie Homes is the construction of two insulated concrete homes in the addition. “I must think a lot of this idea,” Hennessee said, “I’ve put a lot of money into it, and I think it’s the way to go.”

Soon the company will have its own crew trained to use cutting edge wall form technology to construct concrete homes for the same cost as a home built from traditional materials such as wood and brick.

Concrete homes are not a new idea. Solid and less prone to structural damage from wear and weather, the drawback for many prospective buyers has been construction costs, which are often twice as much as traditional homes.

Until now.

“Concrete homes have been built for years, but the construction has never been cheap or easy,” Tim Ryan, of Insulated Concrete Structures, said. He has a background in working with engineers and architects, especially in structural construction, he said. In January, Ryan’s design for sandwich wall forms which holds the insulation in place during the pouring of concrete homes was patented. He had been working on the idea for four years, he said. Okie Homes is purchasing some of the forms to begin building the concrete homes.

Taking Western Forms’ standard aluminum wall forms and applying trusses to hold the interior Styrofoam insulation in place, both sides of the wall are poured at the same time, allowing for a quick turnaround in construction. Rebar is set in the 3,500-pound per-square-inch test concrete and, when completed, the structure meets FEMA standards for safety.

“Instead of a safe room, we’re giving people an affordable safe house,” Hennessee said.

Window and door frames are designed into the framed structure before pouring. With housings in place while in the form stage, plumbers and electricians finish all tasks inside the walls prior to pouring. Drywall and exterior finishes may be applied once the concrete has set. Products such as acrylic stucco, drywall and paints are applied directly to the concrete.

“The technology integrates the plumbers, electricians, drywall and exterior finishers into the home’s construction,” Ryan said. “In one pour you replace framing, insulation, sheet rock and exterior board.”

Using this technology makes the cost of building a concrete safe home the same as that of a home built of wood or brick, Ryan said. Gene Simmons concurred, saying the cost is around “$100 per square-foot.” The average turnaround time for a build is “basically eight days,” Ryan said, and includes a crew of between six to eight workers. He believes once the idea catches on with the public, it will spark a new wave in construction.

“Building with an insulated concrete wall using Western Forms aluminum forms allows us versatility in layout of walls, height, thickness and location of windows and doors,” Ryan said. “You can take your floor plan and build it as drawn.”

“It can last indefinitely,” Hennessee said. The end result is a home which is impervious to many of the problems of traditional homes, such as wood rot, termites and even wind damage. Depending on the specs of the project, Ryan said, people “won’t have a clue the house is all concrete” when completed.

That is, until the energy bills come in. The three inches of concrete on either side of four inches of Styrofoam insulation helps the structure to become a geothermal unit with up to 40 percent savings on utility costs, Ryan said.

“Energy prices aren’t going down, and I believe energy savings will play more and more a consideration when people are building a home,” Hennessee said. “Energy has changed our way of life.”

Also, concrete is fire-proof, so lower insurance costs have been cited for these “safe homes,” Ryan said. Tax credits are available to the home buyer for purchasing a concrete, environmentally

As the first home was being completed, and with the second underway, an open house and media day was held on May 23, 2006 at Geronimo Estates to allow the public to examine the end result for themselves.

“Once people, see, feel and touch these houses, they won’t have to sell it,” Ryan said, “They’ll sell themselves.”

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