Sources: Heldenfels Enterprises Inc. (HEI), San Marcos, Texas; and CP staff
In alliance with HEI Building Systems Division, Coastal Fortified Homes (CFH) has designed a carbon fiber-reinforced precast concrete wall system to withstand Category 5 hurricane exposure (winds > 157 mph) and attendant flooding or storm surge. The system premiers at a development of eight 1,600-sq.-ft. properties in Port Aransas, Texas, located between San Jose and Padre Islands.
As a member of Lancaster, Pa.-based AltusGroup, HEI Building Systems brings CarbonCast High Performance Insulated Wall Panels into the homes’ design. “CarbonCast, through innovation and many years of proven testing, uses carbon fiber reinforcing to produce a thinner but stronger insulated panel,” notes Division General Manager Gil Heldenfels. “The panel assembly consists of insulation sandwiched between two layers of concrete. A series of carbon fiber trusses ties the wall assembly together.”
The producer is fabricating the CarbonCast panels at its Corpus Christi, Texas, site, shipping them about 25 miles to Port Aransas where, notes CFH founder and CEO Steve Berkus, “The objective is to create relevant, competitively-priced housing for responsible living within low-lying coastal regions. We are excited to publicly reveal what we call a ‘win-wind’ solution.”
Project developer Nick Lorette has been building homes in Port Aransas for 10 years, completing upwards of 250 properties in that window. As a longtime coastal resident, he recognizes the increasing need for durable structures of the type Heldenfels and CFH have designed, and how a precast wall system can result in a halving of a home’s construction schedule when compared to a conventional wood frame scheme.
CFH is working with insurance officials to recognize the CarbonCast building system’s favorable probability of risk in weather extremes, and thereby receive a classification for lower premiums. Coupled with the other savings, insurability will substantially reduce the overall cost of operation. “Yet even with [their] unique engineering features, the homes are inviting and livable, thanks to strong architectural design. There is no compromise on pride of ownership,” Berkhus affirms.
While approximately 40 percent of the U.S. population lives in counties that lie directly along the nation’s shoreline, he adds, few structures are built to withstand the extreme conditions that periodically inundate these areas. Meanwhile, the frequency of storm events in the U.S. continues to increase along with the cost of insurance and the desire of millions to live in coastal regions.