March 17, 2018

Alternative Building Materials for Homes

Today’s homeowners want durable homes that are fire- and disaster-resistant. They also want healthy and energy-efficient homes with excellent indoor environmental quality (IEQ). Unfortunately, the most common product used in home construction, wood, does not fulfill these requirements. Wood-frame construction has challenges with fire-resistance, moisture accumulation, disaster-resistance, and durability. There are also smaller issues like poor acoustics, excessive waste, and limitations on architectural styles. The limitations of wood-frame construction push builders, architects, and homeowners to consider alternative building materials, like insulated concrete block (ICB). Insulated concrete blocks are moisture-resistant, fire-resistant, and disaster-resistant. They are also energy-efficient, pest-resistant, noise-reducing, and create a healthier and more comfortable home. The benefits of ICB make it a wise alternative building material for today’s homes.

Problems with Wood-Frame Home Construction

Builders have utilized wood framing for home construction for nearly 100 years. It is a well-known and low cost building system available throughout the United States. However, changing owner requirements and building codes are presenting a challenge to this very basic style of construction. Current priorities such as energy efficiency, storm protection, fire safety, health concerns, and desire for longer life spans and lower maintenance costs are pushing homeowners to consider alternative building materials, like ICB. Still, even with increasing awareness of the benefits of ICB, wood-frame construction continues to be common in the United States.

Fire Protection Problems in Wood-Framed Construction

Wood is flammable and prone to fire damage. Wood-frame homes are especially susceptible to fire damage during construction before the placement of fire protection over the wood. The challenge to builders of wood-framed buildings is to stop potential fires and, in the case of a fire, to resist the spread of flames. Limiting the spread of fire is done by cladding the wood framing in products that resist catching fire and treating the wood with fire retardants. Fire resistance and protections are challenging to contractors of wood-framed homes and are rarely done in home construction. This leaves most homeowners at risk.

Moisture Accumulation Problems with Wood Construction.

All wood-frame homes are susceptible to moisture accumulation in the wall cavities, but this can be especially problematic for more energy efficient wood-frame homes. High moisture within a home's cavities can cause wood rot (due to fungi) and the growth of mold, which is unhealthy to the occupants of the home. A wood-frame building envelope must be designed to resist water intrusion in any form. However, leaks do occur for a variety of reasons, so builders must plan for a way for walls that get wet to dry out. This can prove difficult because new energy efficiency codes require homes to limit the amount of air infiltration through the walls, which is how older homes were able to dry out. The design of a high-performing wood-frame home must prevent the accumulation of moisture within the wall assembly, but also allow the walls to dry should water intrusion occur.

Disaster Resistance Problems of Wood-Frame Construction

Constructing a wood-frame home that has the strength and resilience to resist storms, tornadoes, flooding, hurricanes and earthquakes is difficult and often expensive. In earthquake-vulnerable areas, anchoring a home’s foundation is critical to stopping structural shifts and the threat of moisture seepage. In hurricane and tornado prone areas, contractors must follow building code standards to guarantee a minimum degree of resistance to wind loads and a continuous load path to the foundation and into the ground.  Also, a home’s design must include windborne debris resistant roofs, windows, walls, and doors. Building a disaster resistant wood-framed home is possible; however, it can cost 25–30 percent more than standard wood construction.

Durability Problems with Wood-Frame Construction

Wood-frame homes are especially prone to termites, which can damage a home’s durability and cost thousands of dollars in repair. It is critical to include termite protection in wood-frame construction. However, termite protection application is challenging and requires specialized equipment and a trained professional. Preventing termites from attacking a home is essential to maintaining the durability of a wood-framed house.

Advantages of Insulated Concrete Block Home Construction

Insulated concrete blocks, like the Bautex Wall System, is a smart alternative building material choice over wood-frame construction. Unlike wood-frame homes, Bautex insulated concrete block homes are moisture-resistant, fire-resistant, disaster-resistant, and pest-resistant. Bautex Blocks are also, energy-efficient, noise-reducing, and healthy.

  • The Bautex Wall System is moisture-resistant. The Bautex AMB 20 air and moisture barrier, applied to the block wall, prevents moisture and air infiltration to the inside of a home. Bautex Blocks do not rot or promote mold growth like wood framing should they get wet.
  • The Bautex Wall System is fire-resistant and can limit the spread of flames compared to wood walls. In fact, the Bautex Block Wall assembly meets and exceeds industry's standard for fire resistance. Bautex Blocks have an ASTM E119 fire rating of four-hours. Because the blocks pass the E84 and NFPA 286 tests they meet all of the life safety requirements of the NFPA 101 code.
  • The Bautex Wall System is disaster-resistant. The Bautex Blocks meet the  ICC-500 and FEMA standards for debris impact. Bautex Block Wall assembly also meets the FEMA 320 and FEMA 361 guidelines for safe rooms in storm zones with wind speeds up to 250 miles per hour.
  • The Bautex Wall System is pest-resistant and therefore easier and cheaper to maintain.
  • The Bautex Wall System reduces the outside noise entering the home by one-fourth to one-eighth compared to wood-built homes. In fact, the Bautex Wall System received a high Sound Transmission Class (STC) rating of 51 and a high Outdoor-Indoor Transmission Class (OITC) performance rating of 47.
  • The Bautex Wall System provides R-14 continuous insulation; far exceeding 2015 IECC recommendations for mass wall assemblies. Bautex Blocks also create an energy efficient building envelope that is well ahead of the latest building codes.
  • The Bautex Wall System is healthy because it minimizes it is not susceptible to mold and mildew growth and provides a very air tight building envelope which reduces exposure of occupants to outside allergens.

The Bautex Wall System solves or lessens many of the problems of light-wood-frame construction. Bautex insulated concrete blocks are moisture-resistant, fire-resistant, and disaster-resistant.  Bautex Blocks are also noise-reducing, pest resistant, energy efficient and create a home with good indoor environmental quality. The advantages of insulated concrete block construction make Bautex Wall Assembly a wise alternative building material for today’s home builders.  For more information on alternative building materials for homes visit Bautex Wall Systems.


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