Poured-concrete foundation walls have been the industry standard for residential homes in the United States for more than 100 years. That may be about to change with the introduction of patented Epitome foundation walls from Composite Panel Systems (CPS, Eagle River, Wis., USA). The new composite foundation wall system is fabricated by Fiber-Tech Industries, Inc. (Cadillac, Mich., USA) using a fire-retardant Modar resin supplied by Ashland Performance Materials (Dublin and Columbus, Ohio, USA), a commercial unit of Ashland Inc. (Covington, Ky.). CPS launched the composite foundation solution during the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Convention and Expo in Chicago (June 26-28, 20140, where the composites industry had a significant presence at the Composites Pavilion.
The 7-inch/178 mm-thick, 24-ft/7.4m long and 9 ft/2.8m tall foundation wall concept consists of a foam-cored fiberglass composite panel with integral cavities for structural studs and mechanical installation. The wall includes an integral top plate and a vapor barrier. Shaped connection flanges on each panel allow attachment to adjoining panels. The technology is currently approved for use in Wisconsin and compliance on the national level with IBC and IRC is on track for October of 2014, says the company. Installation is reportedly fast and simple and requires minimal training for anyone skilled in building trades. Thanks to light weight, panels for a complete basement can be delivered in one trip and typical installations take less than two hours. The composite walls decrease moisture and mold issues common with traditional foundations, and provide homeowners a warmer, drier, more energy-efficient and ready-to-finish basement. Plus, the 9-ft height is taller than normal foundation walls, for higher finished ceilings.
“Because there are so many benefits associated with our foundation walls for builders and homeowners alike, we believe this is the most exciting thing the residential building industry has seen since the introduction of plywood,” says Glenn Schiffmann, founder and president of CPS. “Composites offer incredible performance, and having gained the trust of engineers in aviation many years ago, we knew we could develop a better-performing system for basements as an alternative to concrete.”
Epitome foundation walls offer better energy efficiency than concrete with an inherent R-16.5 insulation value. The airtight transition between the home’s floor and foundation increases energy efficiency compared to a standard concrete foundation. The panels also pass the NFPA 286 room corner burn test and therefore do not require covering with a thermal barrier such as drywall prior to occupancy. This allows homeowners flexibility to finish their lower level at their leisure and save money upfront.
“The composite technology is designed to withstand six times a sand backfill load, and can be installed in any soil type suitable for backfilling,” adds Andy Beer, global business leader, Ashland Performance Materials. “Each 24-foot section of foundation panel can withstand 600,000 pounds of downward force resulting in a maximum allowable house load of 8,900 lbs/lf after the safety factor is applied.”
The product’s introduction at the AIA Convention and Expo is just one highlight of the composites industry’s marketing effort aimed at architects and engineers, to increase awareness of composites’ benefits in the building envelope. Bob Moffit, product manager at Ashland who attended the event, says “This is a really big deal for our industry, it’s a good opportunity.”