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The Envelope Please

| Benefits of ICFs | March 3, 2011

I am watching the Academy Awards as I write this and yes – I will admit enjoying the spectacle immensely. I even go so far as to help my lovely lady critique the fashion.

“Ack, I don’t like that dress – just doesn’t work on her.” I say. Hillary Swank is wearing a strapless silver colored gown. I am fond of dresses that flow on a woman, that drape her and accentuate the way she moves. Strapless just doesn’t do that.

I am rooting for True Grit to win Best Picture. My beloved and I went and saw True Grit together. I love that movie. The dialogue (I grew up on a ranch in the Dakotas) really hits home. I am going to buy the DVD; I have already bought the book.

I didn’t see any of the other pictures up for the awards. I suppose they are good (they were nominated – they must be ok). It appears the view from my couch is slightly prejudiced. I have preferences – what I’m used to and what looks good to me must be the best.

Last week I (along with several Fox Blocks Dealers) were working the CASH Show in Sacramento (the who’s who of School Construction in California attends). We had a Fox Blocks booth (the only ICF there) amidst engineering and architectural firms showing off to school district decision makers. The week before we were working the World Agg Expo in Visalia CA (again – the only ICF there), it’s the world’s largest agricultural expo and trade show.

From these shows there is good news no matter what brand of ICF floats your boat; the strongest recognition of ICF’s I have seen yet. I talked to farmers who built their houses with ICF’s and architects and engineers who specified ICF’s for their institutional projects; who all touted the superior performance of their buildings. The particular ICF brands they liked just because that’s what they were used to. Until they saw Fox Blocks.

One architect I talked to at the CASH Show had built his own house with ICF and had specified ICF for several projects (one of them the largest ICF church in Central California). He was at the booth looking over the Fox Blocks forms – “Wow,” he said, “these feel stronger.” I pulled out a corner form, “whoa now – that’s massive.”

He said he was glad to see the industry advancing with latest generation upgrades, but it’s the overall finished concept. “You need to show ICF projects that have durability requirements, finish durability-impact and abrasion resistance, as in military or industrial projects. It’s not the ICF brand; it’s not the foam, it’s how you dress it.”

I started using that to great effect for the rest of the show. He was right, school district officials upon hearing that institutional projects, federal government, military bases, etc are using ICF they warm right up. Give them lifecycle impact and abrasion resistant finishes and suddenly it’s a “yes – please do come make a presentation.”

I had been outlining why Fox Blocks have such an advantage over other ICF’s. Unless you’re actually in the ICF business nobody much cares. The hot button is the durability of concrete in a foam sandwich with tough finishes to match. ICF then becomes a viable competitor over CMU or Tilt Up or (good lord) light frame nonsense.

So if you are in the ICF business or have done some comparative performance homework, you already know the Oscar for Best Building goes to ICF.

But for Best Picture within the ICF business…may I have the envelope please? The Oscar (I just have to do this) Goes To: Fox Blocks. I may not have seen the other movies, or like strapless dresses, but if you want to build something, go see True Grit. Tough, Solid, and the Real Deal; kind of like the company and the people and the product at Fox Blocks.

Growing ICF Awareness

| Benefits of ICFs | January 6, 2011

My name is Randy Daniels, I have been an ICF Regional Sales Manager for over ten years. My office is in my home in Southern California, the region I have been responsible for has been the Western US.

I have had some success. Major ICF projects have been built, first of their kind; incepted and in part sold by me along with a cast of others. Amazing feeling seeing a project going up in the air and knowing you had a hand in it.

A few days ago, my boss (Mike Kennaw – big guy, likes football, played in college, begins sentences with the word “So” and now so am I) flew into town with the express purpose of visiting our new manufacturing plant in McFarland CA.

The other reason he came down (he lives in Lynden, WA – you can’t go much farther north and not be in Canada) was to meet with the General Sales Manager of a large ready-mix concrete and aggregates company. The General Sales Manager’s name is Renee and she has organized and developed a solid and effective inside sales support department. Mike is revamping our inside sales processes and wanted to get a look at a good one.

So we were in her office, it was a little lunch meeting, I was chomping on a cheese and tomato sandwich (very good) when in pops Renee’s boss. His name is Brian. Brian says hello, he knows we are ICF folks. Mike says hello, and Brian says “This ICF thing…I believe in it. But what’s the deal? After 10 years solid of a guy like Randy working in this market I don’t understand why we don’t see project after project while driving down the road.”

There was a pause. I can’t remember what Mike said in return. I stopped chewing. I dropped into my own little world. That question. I have heard it before. Anybody that knows ICF has said or heard the same thing. “What a great way to build-why don’t we see it going up everywhere?”

So in my defense (I couldn’t help it, internally I had to run some numbers in my defense). If say, a guy averages one architect, designer, engineer, or major design build or GC firm presentation a week, (some weeks I have done 3 or 4) at say, 40 work weeks a year, by 10 years, that’s at least 400 times delivering (I am told I am good at this) the ICF message. A monkey can present the ICF message; the facts are so clear-cut, remarkable, and compelling.

My common answer to “the question” is that most architects (like the rest of us) do what they do and do not want to change what they do. They have stock details, like to replicate systems. If they have to get into something new it takes more time and effort and none of us are quick to do anything that takes more time and effort.

I don’t know if I am right about this or not. But I have seen ICF design manuals sitting on the shelf in architect’s offices, gathering dust…while project after project goes out their door designed with CMU walls – furred out and insulated. Ack.

So what’s the answer? I had a guy tell me once that there were no silver bullets; only a bunch of silver BB’s.

If you have a silver bullet…or one of the BB’s…plug into the blog. I’ve got a few architects we could aim at.