Creative Developers Dabble in Material Science
I recently visited The Villages and The Villages Construction Division in Florida. They are lifestyle developers, creating a complete community including homes, recreation, and town centers. The Villages is located north of Orlando and the community stretches 11 miles with 58 different neighborhoods or “villages”, dozens of golf courses and two old fashioned “downtown” areas.
The homes are constructed with techniques ranging from stick-built wood frame to concrete masonry unit (CMU) to cast-in-place concrete. The CMU structures and cast-in-place structures have a cementitious finishing system on the exterior. People familiar with the chemistry of concrete know that new concrete is very alkaline. On the scale of acid to base, basic materials are alkaline and they actually burn like acids do. The scale ranges from zero to 14. At seven, a product is neutral and is safe. If material registers too low it’s acidic and if it’s too high it’s too alkaline. Either creates its own unique challenges.
If anyone has tried to paint fresh concrete they know what alkalinity does to coatings; it actually burns them up. For The Villages to construct the quality product they do, they need to dry-in the structures as quickly as possible. As a result, they have worked with paint and coatings manufacturers to develop special primers that can be put on green concrete or mortar without burning the paint and thereby preventing failure within the year. To meet the needs of their unique climate and construction schedule, this developer has sought out manufacturers who can work with them.
In order to succeed, The Villages went to science to create a solution and based on my observation, they have an exceptional product. And they are on track to sell over 2,000 homes again this year.
In this economic climate, that is extraordinary.
Lucas Hamilton is Manager, Building Science Applications at CertainTeed Corporation.