If you are designing a gymnasium, big-box retail, or one of several other building types, you can still utilize integral-insulated exposed single-wythe concrete masonry (CMU) walls for code compliance. This cost-effective wall system remains a prescriptive path design option in the latest Washington and Oregon energy codes.
This study evaluates initial construction costs of a four-story building in the Portland area. It compares construction cost estimates of six different structural systems all with brick veneer as the exterior cladding. Click here to view the full study.
Based on the construction cost estimates prepared for this study, the cost associated with using a noncombustible compartmentalized construction method including concrete-based construction materials was very favorable with both conventional wood frame and light gage steel frame construction costs. The load-bearing masonry system was only 3 percent more than the cost of conventional wood frame and 3 percent less than steel frame construction.
The minimal increase in construction cost can help pay for itself over the life of the structure. Materials such as concrete masonry have many other advantages beyond their inherent fire resistance including durability, resistance to mold growth, resistance to damage from vandalism, structural integrity, and minimal damage caused by water and water pressure in the event of building fire. In many cases, with concrete-based construction that will never burn, the damage outside of the fire compartment is minimal. This provides for reduced cleanup costs and quicker reoccupation of the structure.
This study determined that truly resilient buildings can be constructed affordably. We can keep the residents in our communities safe by using the principles of balanced design. We recommend that a similar study be undertaken to evaluate the use of similar construction systems and their associated construction cost impact on other typical building types such as schools, retail establishments, and commercial buildings.
We recently received a sobering reminder that our world has changed forever, and that fact has far-reaching implications for our industries that build our cities, towns, and the systems that sustain our way of life.
The National Climate Assessment report sums it up clearly. “The nation’s economy, security, and culture all depend on the resilience of urban infrastructure systems.”
In the Pacific Northwest catastrophic disasters from floods, wildfires, and periods of bitter cold will be the new realities driving the need for adaptation, notes the climate report.
A Pacific Northwest Building Resilience Coalition article co-authored by Bill Larson, CalPortland’s Vice-President for Marketing, notes this means we need to change how we build, what we build with, where we build, and we must ensure that our buildings and communities are more resilient, more efficient, and more livable.
These are profound challenges for industries already grappling with severe economic and social pressures.
The article points out that changing policies and planning measures such as building codes, zoning regulations, land-use plans, water supply management, green infrastructure initiatives, health care planning, and disaster mitigation efforts, are all actions that can support adaptation.
Integrating disaster preparedness and resiliency planning into on-going public policy processes is a low cost, no regrets approach that allows us to use existing funding sources for climate adaptation.
But to be successful, these adaptation efforts require that private sector players and governments must come together in common cause, notes Larson.
“Only by working together can we reduce our exposure to climate-related stresses and strengthen ability to adapt to changing conditions. We can do it. We must do it. There is too much at stake for inaction on our part.”
Published by the Pacific Northwest Building Coalition (PNBRC).
Web site: www.ncma.org
Phone #: 703-713-1900
NCMA Concrete Masonry Tek Notes and Technical Details
NCMA Catalog of Publications
The NCMA Catalog of Publications can be viewed by going to the