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BUILDING WITH LEGOS | Local contractor builds resilient 'styrofoam home'

The material is said to be more durable against hurricanes than wood-frame homes
Styrofoam home
Posted at 9:50 PM, Dec 05, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-06 09:55:53-05

FORT MYERS BEACH, Fla. — When you drive or walk by some houses being built in Southwest Florida, you might notice what looks like large styrofoam pieces outside.

Those pieces are going inside the house, and you're probably wondering how and why.

They're actually used to build a durable home, one builder says.

"You're basically living inside of a bunker," said Michael Vellucci, owner of Contractor Plus Inc.

He's building one homemade of the foam on Fort Myers Beach. It's not exactly styrofoam, though.

"I use that term quite often with people just to kind of see if they seen a similar home being built," Vellucci said. "Many people refer to it as like building with LEGOs."

The material is called Insulated Concrete Forms, or ICF.

"This product is the mold for the concrete that will be poured around it, through it," Vellucci explained.

He said the product was mainly used in colder climates to keep the heat in, lowering the gas bill. When it made its way to Florida, the purpose it to keep your home cooler longer.

"The mold will stay in place and entrap all the air inside the property," Vellucci said.

For people in southwest Florida, Vellucci believes the durability of the ICF against a hurricane is by far the best between wind damage and flooding.

"When you have this product, you have less areas where floodwater can come into the home now," he said. "You might see styrofoam. You might think that it's weak. By far, not even close. You have a poured beam above that."

ICF production company Nurdura says their specific mold can withstand 250 mph winds. Vellucci says besides protecting your home, it can also keep cash in your wallet.

"The insurance companies have less to worry about on our types of homes," he said.

While the product has been around for a few decades, Vellucci believes that what drives people away is the cost. However, he says the price is nearly the same as a wood-frame home when it's all said and done.

"It might be $150 a square foot with lumber, $250 to $350 a square foot for concrete block, and we’re right there at $250 to $350 a square foot for a solid poured concrete roof, concrete deck," he said.

"The labor force to do this [ICF] is half. The time to do this is half. The product is a little bit more money, and the concrete is a little more expensive."

Vellucci says it ends up being fairly even.

As we rebuild from Ian, Vellucci believes the foam, surrounded by concrete, is how we're going to build back stronger and more resilient.

"Anything along the coast should be constructed of solid concrete," he said.