Build with Strength: New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity and Auburn University Rural Studio Construct with Insulated Concrete Forms

New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity (NOAHH) is involved in a groundbreaking nationwide initiative with esteemed partners like the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association (NRMCA), Holcim, BuildBlock, and Auburn University Rural Studio to support the “Build with Strength” campaign. These efforts are impactful in addressing the growing need for affordable, sustainable, and resilient innovative housing solutions. This interdisciplinary collaborative effort assembles industry partners with housing providers and designers to promote innovation in construction methods and materials.

In need of workforce housing, NOAHH sought the assistance of Rural Studio to design and develop a multi-unit prototype for workforce housing that will serve their AmeriCorps employees and NOAHH volunteers. To achieve this vision, BuildBlock and Holcim provided materials and technical support for the project, with insulating concrete forms (ICF) and ECOpact, a low-carbon concrete mix. The goal is to create affordable rental housing, with the initial duplex situated near NOAHH’s office and ReStore.

Ownership of the structure will be retained by NOAHH, so they will be able to observe how the duplex performs over time. NOAHH is exploring the possibility of constructing the same design out of wood in order to directly compare the two construction types (wood and concrete). The concrete structure of the house will provide resilience against high winds. Should the structure ever flood, the concrete material is less susceptible to mold, potentially shortening any post-disaster renovations, resulting in decreased displacement from the home.

The project aims for ENERGY STAR 3.0 certification, a HERS rating of 38, and FORTIFIED Gold certification. NOAHH may pursue Zero Energy Ready Homes (ZERH) certification, delivering an energy-efficient design that prioritizes resiliency. The use of ECOpact, a low-carbon concrete for reduced environmental impact, is a key sustainable feature in this housing endeavor. This innovative concrete mix boasts a 30% reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions compared to standard concrete.

During a public build week led by BuildBlock, NOAHH’s project materialized with the active participation of BuildBlock, NOAHH, members of the Front Porch Initiative team, and community volunteers. The advantages of ICF construction were evident as the exterior walls were assembled efficiently, engaging minimal crew in a couple of days. With the walls set, the next milestone is installing trusses in the upcoming week. The aim is to have the house “dried-in” by year-end, entailing the installation of the exterior roof, and sheathing to shield the interior from the elements. The anticipated completion for construction is set for the summer of 2024. As NOAHH continues its collaboration with industry partners, its mission remains to construct resilient, energy-efficient structures in the community.

“Behind the build” media event

Recent Press:

New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity: About Habitat and Build with Strength

BuildBlock: New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity ICF Project, November 2023

Biz New Orleans: Habitat Partners to Build Concrete Housing

Build with Strength: Habitat Partners to Build Concrete Housing