The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

August 27, 2007

Rock-solid house

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By Melissa Dunson

When Lamar resident Jenice Gaither encountered a tornado as a young child, she decided that any house she would occupy as an adult would have to be safe.

Gaither found the security she was seeking in an insulating-concrete-form house that uses layers of Styrofoam, thin plastic and 6 to 8 inches of concrete for the walls. The result is a structure that resists fire, water, mold, termites and winds up to 160 mph.

Gaither said the indestructible nature of her Lamar home is reassuring, but her husband’s favorite feature of the ICF house into which they moved in 2000 is their monthly utility bills, which run 30 percent to 50 percent lower than those of some of their neighbors.

“There’s so many things we appreciate about the ICF house,” Jenice Gaither said. “If we ever had to build again, I wouldn’t have second thoughts about doing another ICF house. It’s well worth it.”

The combination of the increased energy efficiency and structural soundness of ICF buildings uses technology that Webb City builder and developer Danny Phillips said has been around for more than 20 years. But the concrete homes are just now gaining popularity in the Joplin area.

Phillips is finishing a 6,350-square-foot ICF home in the new Oakwood subdivision in Webb City. He estimates that the house normally would cost $450 a month to cool, but the monthly electric bill will be only around $250. The ICF buildings cost $4 to $5 more a square foot than traditional wood-frame construction, but Phillips said the energy savings pay for the added cost in three to five years.

In addition, Phillips said, federal tax credits are available for building ICF homes. Builders are eligible for up to $1,500 per home, and home buyers can qualify for up to $2,500 through the government’s Energy Star energy-efficiency program.

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