Developer Success Story
Atteberry Homes Overcomes A Shortage of Skilled Labor with ICFs
The Key Players Involved in This Project
This case study dissects an innovative solution to skilled labor shortages in residential construction. It involves three key parties:
- Atteberry Homes: A residential developer based in Wellsville, Kansas, founded and managed by Paul and Mary Atteberry as well as their son Ethan. Atteberry Homes is also a member of the Epcon group.
- Form Systems Inc. and Logix Brands Ltd.: A construction technology provider specializing in Insulated Concrete Forms (ICFs), chosen by Atteberry Homes for their projects.
- Jake DeWerth, American Building Performance Inc.: A third-party HVAC expert who was instrumental in the systems design of Atteberry Homes.
Their Goals and Challenges
Atteberry Homes aspires to become a developer constructing up to 20 high-performance, yet cost-effective, residential structures per year. Their focus was on combining quality with affordability in an industry often characterized by trade-offs between the two.
Atteberry Homes faced two major obstacles:
- Epcon is a franchise network that has been helpful to Atteberry Homes however it does not provide in-depth guidance for developing high-performance homes.
- Skilled labor shortages posed a direct challenge to their capability to build high-performance homes at scale. It typically takes framers years to become experienced journeymen whose output meets the elevated quality standards of high-performance houses.
How We Helped
Adopting ICF Technology
In their pursuit of a solution, the Atteberrys recognized the potential of Insulated Concrete Forms (ICFs). ICF construction, being less labor-intensive yet offering high energy efficiency, aligned well with their objectives.
Atteberry Homes entered into a strategic partnership with Logix Brands through Form Systems, the local Logix ICF manufacturer. In addition to the industry-leading Logix ICF system, Logix Brands also publishes a collection of small home designs.
One of those designs, The Heartland 1250, was chosen by the Atteberry’s and modified to include additional features such as a mechanical room and an ICF-constructed two-car garage, among others.
HVAC System Optimization
Collaborating with Jake DeWerth, Atteberry Homes fine-tuned the HVAC systems to meet the high-performance metrics they were targeting.
The Outcomes and Lessons Learned
The implementation of ICF technology enabled a notably expedited construction timeline. Walls were erected within two weeks, without the need for specialized labor. Consequently, the company successfully sold two homes priced at $319,000 and $330,000, with the price difference attributed to upgrades and changes to the design.
The Atteberry’s have found that an ICF installer can become proficient in their craft after only weeks of practice in the field. In fact, they feel that a competent laborer can gain up to 80% of the experience required to perform the job after just a half-day of on-site training.
The ability to quickly train and assemble crews that can construct ICF homes is what the Atteberrys see as their solution to the persisting labor shortage. In practical terms, they feel not having to hire highly skilled could allow them to scale up to 20 homes per year from their current output of about 3-4 in relatively short order.
Tips and Tricks
- ICF Training: A brief on-site training period is sufficient to bring laborers up to speed for ICF installation, a vital aspect given the skilled labor scarcity.
- Cost Planning: The relative price stability of ICFs compared to more volatile materials like lumber can facilitate more reliable budgeting.
- Systemic Approach: When targeting high-performance metrics, an integrative approach that includes an expertly designed HVAC system is essential.
The Atteberrys are now working on their third home are hoping to ramp up production now that they’ve found a construction technology and overall strategy that helps them build inexpensive high-performance homes, quickly.