The urban neighborhood of East Parkside on Philadelphia’s
west side is home to several local attractions, parks, museums, and more than
1,600 residential and commercial sites. It’s a community ripe for revival. At
the same time, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter is on a mission to turn his
city into “America’s Greenest.”
Beginning in the fall of 2008, Habitat for Humanity
Philadelphia and BASF Corporation partnered with the East Parkside Community
Revitalization Corporation (EPCRC) on a restoration project to transform the
blighted, historic neighborhood into a revitalized and sustainable community.
The center of the restoration project is seven, tri-level
residential buildings featuring insulating concrete forms (ICFs) from ARXX Corporation for the exterior walls and firewalls
between units. The project team chose ICFs for their superior energy
efficiency, durability, and safety. ICFs are also helping the East Parkside
community meet its goal to adhere to the sustainability triple bottom line:
economic, environmental, and social responsibility.
ICFs offer superior durability at a lower life-cycle cost
than other common wall systems, making them an economically responsible choice.
As an environmentally sound solution, ICFs provide excellent
energy performance due to their thermal mass, resistance to vapor transmission,
and high insulation values. The concrete component of the system has very low
embodied energy, can contain recycled content, and is a regionally supplied
Because they will use less energy than traditional homes,
the affordability of the homes will be sustained.
This project “ensures its homeowners can afford to operate
their homes even as energy prices skyrocket,” according to Mark Alan Hughes, an
advisor to Mayor Nutter and the city’s first director of sustainability.
“Putting needy families in houses they cannot afford to heat because they’re
not insulated just shifts costs off the construction budget and onto the
family’s operating budget.”
The January 2009 utility bills for one of the families in
their new three-story home totaled a lean $50. Other green features of the
homes include daylighting, a south-facing thermal wall, Energy Star® rated
appliances and dual-flush toilets, leading to a 65 percent reduction in total
utility costs for the homeowners.
Looking at the social component of the triple bottom line,
ICFs deliver superior fire safety and sound insulation, which is especially
beneficial in high- and medium-density neighborhoods.A labor force made up of community residents
can stack ICF blocks.Because of the
ease of assembly, the members of the community are able to help build their
“It’s so great to be able to bring our commitment to
community rebuilding together with a community that is, in its own way,
revitalizing itself under a new model,” said Jon Musselman, director of project
planning, Habitat for Humanity Philadelphia. “We’re very proud to use
technology that really helps advance affordability to a new level and
guaranteeing homeowners enjoy long-term, durable, highly energy efficient homes
and in a community that’s really headed in a positive direction.”
Another benefit of using ICFs on a project like the East Parkside
renovation is that they can readily meet site-specific challenges. ICFs are
light and can be carried by hand to staging areas then lifted into place
without the use of heavy equipment.
Once the blocks are up, the concrete can be delivered to the
forms by centrally located boom pumps, and mixer trucks delivering the concrete
can access the pump directly from the street.
“It has been our mission to transform a once neglected and
underserved community into a model of sustainable, green development that
brings long term benefits to the residents and city as a whole,” remarked
Robert Cousar, executive director of the East Parkside Community Revitalization
Corporation. “Our hope is that East Parkside will be the first in many projects
across Philadelphia, helping to realize our vision of making it ‘America’s
first phase of homes in the East Parkside restoration achieved a Silver
certification under the LEED for Homes rating by the U.S. Green Building
Council. BASF’s ARXX Polysteel ICFs were used at East Parkside—a product that
enjoys a highly regarded third-party Silver certification from McDonough
Braungart Design Chemistry (MBDC) under the Cradle-to-Cradle (C2C) Evaluation
As Philadelphia’s first LEED-certified affordable housing
project, the restoration was featured on the Discovery’s Planet Green channel
during the program “Renovation Nation” in the spring of 2009.