Ever since ACMA unveiled the first-ever Composites Pavilion at the recent American Institute of Architect (AIA) convention in Chicago, the architecture industry has been buzzing about composite solutions. One such solution revealed at the convention was the Epitome Quality Foundation Walls, developed by Composite Panel Systems, LLC and fabricated by Fiber-Tech Industries Inc. Ashland Performance Materials, a sponsor of ACMA’s Composites Pavilion, supplied the foundation’s fire-retardant resin systems.

Thomas Johnson, specialty resins industry manager at Ashland Inc. and project manager of the Epitome project, and Bob Moffit, product manager at Ashland Performance Materials, described to Composites Manufacturing Interviews the advantages of the Epitome technology for architecture purposes and the bright future of composites for improving all market fields.

What are some of the current challenges in building foundation walls, and how are composites helping to address them?

Johnson: Residential foundations have been built with poured-in-place concrete for more than 100 years.  It is a widely accepted material of construction for homes around the country. Unfortunately, concrete by itself is not well-suited to building quality living spaces below grade for numerous reasons.  Concrete is very strong in compression but quite brittle in tension. As a result, concrete foundation walls tend to crack under the pressure of soil backfill within just a year or two of installation. The result is a leaky basement.  Anyone who owns a home has likely experienced this. To make matters worse, concrete is a poor insulator and is quite porous in nature, which allows moisture to pass through it rather easily. In the end, homeowners are saddled with damp, cold below grade living spaces which are useful for little more than storage, unless the homeowner invests in additional improvements to combat concrete’s natural flaws.

Conversely, composite foundations can be designed to be strong in both compression and tension, making them an ideal building material for residential foundations. Moreover, composites can be designed with a much higher insulation value and are an inherent moisture barrier. When used in foundation applications, composites provide a strong and durable building material that delivers a warm, dry, cozy living space to delight the homeowner.

What void in the infrastructure market is this design helping to fill (or improve upon)?

Johnson: In addition to homeowner benefits, the quick and easy installation of composite foundations gives more schedule control back to the builder. Poured concrete foundation walls can take as long as 14 days to install and are very dependent upon the weather. Composite foundation walls, however, can be installed in less than two hours.

What makes composite materials the best to fill this void?

Johnson:The poor insulation value and intrinsic porous nature of concrete, combined with the fact that composite foundations are designed to be strong in both compression and tension, make composites an ideal building material for residential foundations.