ENVIRONMENTAL CONSTRUCTION: This house in the Hidden
Hills area of Scottsdale has been built using foam.
Paul O'Neill Tribune
|Foam, sweet home
|By Joe Kullman, Tribune
|August 20, 2005
|Seeds of a far-reaching revolution
have been planted on a quiet street at the edge of Scottsdale.
That’s the claim of the builders of a house of foam — its walls
constructed largely of the same kind of material used for coffee
cups and fastfood containers.
The 3,300-square -foot home in the Hidden Hills community close
to Scottsdale’s boundary with Fountain Hills marks a major
technological leap forward for environmentally sensitive
construction, said engineer and inventor Nasser Saebi.
Its combination of energy efficiency, structural solidity,
resource conservation and low construction costs heralds a
radical change in the way homes and communities around the world
can be designed and built, Saebi said.
The house was ceremoniously unveiled Friday by officials of
Strata International Group Inc., a Valley-based company that
designs and licenses construction technologies.
Its crown jewel of building methods is the one Saebi developed
using polystyrene — commonly known by the brand name Styrofoam.
He has patented a technique that binds the lightweight foam and
a glass fiber-reinforced concrete.
The fusion of the materials offers enough strength and
durability to construct a house like the one in Hidden Hills
without using any standard framing or reinforcement — wood,
steel or otherwise — and without a single nail, bolt or screw.
The insulation provided by the composite materials should be
effective enough that the house can be heated or cooled using
about half the energy it takes for a home built with
conventional materials, Strata International officials said.
The company asserts its foam house also can be made more
resistant to fire, mold and pests than typical homes, and better
able to withstand such hazards as earthquakes or violent wind
If the construction method is applied on a large scale, the
price of the houses would drop to less than those built with
conventional materials, company officials said.
Scottsdale is giving the Hidden Hills house its seal of approval
through the city’s Green Building Program, which encourages
environmentally friendly development.
Mayor Mary Manross on Friday lauded the project and Strata
International’s plans to market the technology globally.
"The world doesn’t know it yet, but this really is history in
the making," Manross said.
The foam house adds to an array of homes and other buildings in
Scottsdale that feature advances in environmental design and
energy conservation, she said.
Among them are a hydrogen-powered home, several solar-powered
homes and other buildings using straw-bale materials and
insulating concrete blocks to achieve better energy efficiency.
Scottsdale is supporting such projects, along with the foam
house "because we want to stay in the vanguard of the
environmental effort," Manross said.
On the outside, the foam house looks typical. The difference is
what’s behind the stucco and wallboard.
The walls consist of 8-inch-thick blocks of polystyrene coated
with a quarterinch-thick "skin’ of the fiber concrete, said Tom
Hahn, the project architect.
"The layer of concrete is too thin to work just by itself and
the foam is too weak to work by itself. But when you bond them
together, it’s a marvel," Hahn said. "I hesitate to call it a
miracle material. But in a way, it is."
Hahn, who works for Phoenix-based Sol Source Architecture, said
he has done projects using almost every other environmentally
sensitive, energy-efficient construction method.
The technique used for the foam house "is better by every
measure than the others," he said.
Saebi said the method may have its greatest potential for a
significant impact in Third World nations.
Foam buildings could be the answer to housing growing
populations more affordably, as well as more securely,
particularly in regions threatened by extreme climates or prone
to earthquakes, he said.
|Contact Joe Kullman by
or phone (480) 970-2342