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  • Greater Springfield Habitat for Humanity

GSHFH introduces “Build with Strength” to community

Greater Springfield Habitat for Humanity (GSHFH) recently celebrated its newest and most innovative green build: an insulated concrete form (ICF) home. Approximately 30 guests participated in the Nov. 18 “Behind the Build” event on Chestnut Street in Holyoke. Many attendees represented local, regional, and national partnerships. Guests listened to featured speakers, viewed the current construction, and signed blocks that will be used to frame the first and second floors.


From left: students from Springfield’s Roger L Putnam Vocational Technical Academy autograph foam blocks Nov. 18 at the “Behind the Build” event in Holyoke. On the right, two of the future homeowner’s daughters and son sign foam blocks.
From left: students from Springfield’s Roger L Putnam Vocational Technical Academy autograph foam blocks Nov. 18 at the “Behind the Build” event in Holyoke. On the right, two of the future homeowner’s daughters and son sign foam blocks.

The project is a collaboration between the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association and Habitat for Humanity International to build 50 ICF homes across the United States. Greater Springfield Habitat’s ICF build utilizes Integraspec blocks, which consist of 2-inch foam panels that are separated by spacers. The blocks are stacked together much like children’s plastic building blocks. Once assembled, concrete is poured between the foam panels. The 6-inch concrete core along with the foam panels create a super insulated and resilient home. The panels will be used for all of the exterior walls from the foundation to the second story.


“The City of Holyoke is pleased to host this energy-efficient, cost-efficient, and moisture-resistant home. We’re always pleased to work with Habitat, because a home means hope and neighborhood revitalization,” said Holyoke Mayor Joshua Garcia.


Aimee Giroux, GSHFH executive director, agreed. She said Habitat is very excited to build in Holyoke and construct this home in this new way. Unlike a traditional wood frame house with sheathing, an ICF home offers several additional benefits to the builder and homeowner.


The foam panels are made from recycled material. ICF walls do not off-gas, whereas conventional walls sheathed with oriented strand board (OSB) off-gas through glues and resin. ICF walls are resistant to mold and rot, which provides a better living environment for those suffering from allergens or asthma. Also, due to the rising cost of lumber, this method significantly reduces the need for wood for framing and sheathing the exterior and less trees are cut down.


Since an ICF house has foam on both sides of the concrete, it provides increased thermal mass. This means wall temperatures won’t change throughout a day because the foam eliminates the gaps in regular construction that can cause cold spots. It’ll cost less to heat and cool the home, which leads to energy savings typically sparing a homeowner 30-70% on heating, cooling, and dehumidification expenses. Also, foam and concrete walls insulate sound better than wood-framed walls. An ICF home will likely be quieter than a traditional house.


“Doing something different in construction is not easy. Construction is hard enough when you’re doing the same thing day in and day out. Try to take on a new way of building and it’s really a huge deal,” said Gregg Lewis, chief communications officer at National Ready Mixed Concrete Association. “Sheri (Green, GSHFH construction manager,) took this job on to lead this construction project … and she’s doing phenomenal work.”


To volunteer at the ICF build site, go to habitatspringfield.org/volunteer

No experience is necessary.


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