It’s not every day that a house of Styrofoam and concrete springs up in your neighborhood.
“It’s better than a speed bump,” Louis Moisset quips about the double takes his eco-friendly modern ranch gets from passing motorists. The gawking started the day the hole was dug in the summer of 2013.
Word spread quickly – not always accurately – that a “concrete house” was going up in Northern Hills Estates, a relatively new northern Douglas County subdivision with mostly conventional homes.
Nervous neighbors initially wanted to know, “So, what’s the outside going to look like?” The homeowner, for the most part, alleviated fears of a Flintstones’ cave or a lunar module.
He and his wife, Deanna, were building a modern-style ranch of his design using green materials, Insulated Concrete Forms, and geothermal heating and cooling technology. To conform to neighborhood covenants, the concrete exterior would be finished with earth-tone paint, cedar planks, lap siding and stone.
“I’m a conservative guy,” says Louis, who served as his own general contractor. “I wanted to build as green as possible without being a tree-hugger. I’m a ‘sensible green,’ not a ‘political green.’ If I can have the same or better outcome with less in a sensible way, you have my attention.”
Though he found “excellent options” in alternative materials for his 2,400-square-foot home, “some did not fit my build or fell too short of my requirements for cost, energy efficiency and sustainability,” he says.
Insulated Concrete Form (ICF) technology snagged high marks on those three points. The construction method – a system of interlocking Styrofoam blocks filled with concrete – is strong, energy efficient, airtight and sound dampening.
Key among the geothermal unit’s selling points: service now is available from most HVAC contractors, the in-ground system relies on constant and predictable groundwater (in this case, pumped from a pair of 200-foot-deep wells on the property), and OPPD estimates that the system could pay for itself within seven years.
A bonus, Louis says, was a 30 percent tax credit that brought the geothermal cost to within $1,100 of a conventional heating and cooling system.
Planning the house on paper was one thing. Executing the build was another. The project took nearly 22 months to complete.