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What Is HercuWall?
Phoenix-based SoDella construction is using HercuWall insulated concrete panels on a 140-unit build-to rent community in Mesa, Ariz. It's HercuWall's largest-scale project to date.
Unlike insulated concrete forms or ICF's, which consist of foam blocks that are stacked on site then fitted with internal steel rebar before being filled with concrete, HercuWall consists of large, closed-cell EPX (1.5 lbs/cu.ft.) panels. They're keyed to the plans, numbered and shipped palettes, making them significantly faster to assemble than ICFs.
They also don't need rebar. Instead, reinforcement is provided by vertical steel "shear" strips that attach to anchor bolts in the footing and to a steel cap running along the top of the wall. In addition, steel cross bars join the shear strips on either side of each panel. Conceptually, it's like wrapping the wall in metal bands the way you would a pallet of lumber.
This engineered system is as strong as any concrete wall: HercuTech CEO Gino Porazzo says it has been tested to resist 235 mph winds and has been certified for use in Miami-Dade County, which has the toughest wind codes in the nation.
Other benefits offered include:
An R30 insulation value
A quiet, practically soundproof interior
No food in the wall for bugs or mold.
Unlike a wood frame, the panels can be assembled by relatively unskilled crews. "We only need a crew of four and can train them in a day," says SoDella's Mike Mancini. "We can afford to pay them well and they love working for us."
The system is also quite cost effective. Mitch Rotta of Tricor Contracting has looked closely at SoDella's experience and has calculated that while panels alone cost more than the lumber for a given home, labor savings make the completed cost about the same as for a wood frame. And he is confident that the system will practically eliminate warranty calls for envelope-related problems. He liked it so much that he has decided to partner with Mancini on future projects.
Meanwhile, Mancini is actively promoting HercuWall to other builders and has given several of them tours of the Mesa project. "If more companies adopt it that's better for everyone because it will motivate trades and suppliers to adapt their services to it," he says.