ICF in Aruba

Insulated concrete forms have been around for a long time. Imagine sheets of styrofoam on the outside and concrete and reinforcing steel on the inside. The advantage of this building system is that the forms remain in place, creating an insulating barrier on both the inside and the outside of the structure. At the same time, the concrete and steel create an incredibly strong wall, that when poured at once, becomes a monolithic feature.

Here in Aruba, I have not seen many ICF structures under construction. However, the other day I was in San Fuego where a number of new homes are under way. There I spotted a bunch of forms. Here’s what they look like when they are delivered un-assembled.

Just a stack of styrofoam. The next step is to use brackets to join two pieces. Take a look:

You can see how the cavity is formed in the photo above. At the same time, note that the forms have been “glued” to the footer and held in place with a wooden block. The rebar sticking up helps to connect the wall to the floor. Next, is a view of the portion of the assembled wall:

The vertical wooden braces help to support the forms when the concrete is poured. Significant pressures can develop as concrete is heavy. The story goes that this will be a wine cellar for the house above. I can’t wait to see the finished home. It should be impressive.

Bon dia from Aruba.

Island Practical, Home Construction

This is post Number 100, and we’re clipping right along. Since I’m still in Aruba, I’ll stay with the theme of the island. Today and tomorrow’s posts will be mostly those about building a house and a few other practical issues here. Many people ask me about building and owning a house on the island. I’m hoping these next few posts will provide many answers as well as inspire a few questions.

Here in Aruba, the building material of choice for most new homes is the concrete masonry unit, commonly referred to as the cement block. The ones shown below are solid, but the hollow core blocks are also manufactured on the island.

 For building foundations and walls in the United States, I would normally use hollow core blocks, employing the “dry stack” method. This method does not require as much skill as mortaring the joints. When the wall is stacked, lengths of reinforcing steel are inserted into the cores of the blocks and then concrete is poured in. When the concrete hardens the wall is a monolithic structure that is much stronger than one with mortared joints. Nonetheless, the blocks produced in Aruba and the people who work with them are not as familiar with this method. And so, we use solid blocks for the most part. They’re easier to cut and more forgiving as the mortar joint enables more space for leveling each course.

Thus, the foundation of a house in Aruba is typically laid out according to the wall plan. The footer traces the wall plan, usually about 20″ below grade. Then the first layers of blocks are built up over the footer to a foot or so above grade. It looks like this when finished.

Dirt or stone fills in the spaces between the walls. In the end these spaces will be covered with a poured concrete floor. Aruba has a standard for the footers and be sure to consult your local engineer before putting any concrete into the ground.

Once the foundations have hardened, you’re ready to get some walls up. At this point, you’re using all the common techniques found the world over when it comes to laying block and framing window and door spaces. It looks something like this.

Take a gander at those rebar cages on the left side of the frame. There’s going to be a poured column there, which is formed up conventionally, like this:

Note that the floor has been poured but a ramp stands where steps will be placed.  Take the forms off, and it should looks something like this.

 The rebar sticking out of the top will be tied in to the ring beam which will be part of the discussion in the next post.

Well, this has been a first look at home construction here in Aruba. If you’re thinking about building a new home, this is the most common method by which it will be built. The concrete blocks and form work give you plenty of options, allow for open spans (if engineered properly), and can last for many years with a minimum of maintenance. Maintenance is another subject for about 50 posts, but we’ll leave that to some other time. Not very exciting.

So far, so good.

Published in: on July 19, 2008 at 1:57 pm  Leave a Comment  
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