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Rebuilding Homes in Paradise, Calif., With ICFs

Habitat for Humanity ICF installation at the Habitat for Humanity rebuild in Paradise, Calif.
Habitat for Humanity has started construction on three homes for wildfire victims in Paradise, Calif. ICFs are among the fire-resistant materials being used for the affordable, sustainable houses.

In November 2018, the Camp Fire ripped through Paradise, Calif. In just six hours, 95% of the town's buildings were destroyed and 85 people died. But now there’s good news in Paradise. Habitat for Humanity of Butte County has purchased 17 lots there and has started construction of three homes, all built with innovative and fire-resistant materials, including insulated concrete forms (ICFs). Build With Strength is partnering with Habitat to fortify decent, affordable, and sustainable housing, and members of the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association (NRMCA) have led the material donation efforts.

The three families selected for these first 2-bedroom, 2-bath houses have deep roots in Paradise and are Camp Fire survivors. Two of the families are single moms with 11-year-old boys, and the other family is an adult son who is the caretaker for his mom, who is deaf. These families are looking forward to going back to their hometown where they will live, shop, and go to school as well as being a part of rebuilding their town.

The ICF homes will resist fire through the structural concrete core designed to not weaken, warp, twist, or burn, regardless of the heat. The homes will have other fire-resistance materials and will have defensible space. The partners working with Habitat for Humanity to build with ICFs include the NRMCA, A&A Concrete, Matthew’s Concrete, Boral Roofing, Pan Pacific Cement, Lehigh Hanson Cement, Bob’s Concrete Pumping, APCA, ICFMA, CalCima, CSU Chico, CalFlor, Mohawk, and the Rebuild Paradise Foundation.

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Backed by the NRMCA, Build With Strength is a coalition of architects, builders, engineers, emergency services personnel, policymakers, and others committed to solving challenging housing issues. Build With Strength is partnering with Habitat nationally to help further address those issues on a large scale. “It’s been a rewarding experience to see all of these volunteers come together for such an important initiative,” says Gregg Lewis, executive vice president with the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association. “We are confident that these homes will provide a safe place to live for the Habitat homeowners. We look forward to continued work with Habitat to help rebuild this community and others.”

Tarek Khan, a concrete technical expert with Master Builders, spent two days volunteering on the project. He reports that all is moving forward.

“I’m not used to physical work anymore, and I’m sore. It’s a ‘good hurt,’ though,” Khan says. “Raul Herrera, Nicole Bateman, and Alaina Quevedo are great organizers. Gregg Lewis, Patrick Matsche, and Michael Philipps from NRMCA led by example. Patrick Brittle, Chico State Construction Management Department and Mohammed Albahttiti, Chico State CIM program are professors who know how to do stuff. Mike Dalzell is an incredibly patient teacher, leader, and very credible representative of Fox Blocks. Rick, Zach, Vince, JoVann, and Kip from Christian Public Services are self-described Mennonite ‘farm boys’ from Canada, Texas, Idaho, and Mississippi who are tireless machines!

“Here’s a challenge to all you work-from-home, desk-bound, construction industry people: volunteer your time and talent with Habitat for Humanity,” Khan continues. “You’ll be tired, but richer for the experience. If you can’t get to Paradise, check out HfH in your area, or a donation would help, too.”

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