News Article

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.