Strength in the Storm: The Florida Beach House

Florida Beach House
The Florida Beach House wins second place in the category of Large Residential at the 2019 ICF Builder Awards.

The Florida Beach House Proves How Strong, Efficient, and Beautiful an ICF Home Can Be

The ICF industry hangs its hat on a few defining benefits; energy efficiency, ease of construction, and disaster resistance. While we never hope that your home comes in contact with any kind of disaster (natural or otherwise) it is always encouraging to see our structures live up to the benefits we so proudly proclaim. The Florida Beach House is a shining example of just how strong and resilient ICF structures are as it survived a direct hit from Hurricane Irma. The design and strength of this house have helped to earn it one of the top spots at this year’s ICF Builder Awards.

Project Information

Name: Florida Keys Beach House
Location: Islamorada, FL
Size: 7,972 square feet (4,501 livable)
Square Footage of ICF Used: 17,672

The Home You Want, Without Compromises

Located in Islamorada, Florida in the Florida Keys, this stunning 3 story beach house has everything you could want in an island oasis.  The home is airy, open, and bright with direct access to the ocean and stunning island views. The large windows throughout the house provide a great amount of natural sunlight and the high ceilings make the whole space feel expansive and open.

The owner decided to build with ICFs early in the planning phase. His original architect was not familiar with ICF technology and tried to push him to use CMUs. Having done a great deal of research, the owner was well aware of the many benefits that ICFs have when compared to CMUs so he sought out an ICF designer who would support his vision. This led him to Robert Klob, an architect who works exclusively in ICF home design. Robert’s knowledge and quality of work proved to be an important asset as the homeowner worked through challenges with the local building department and trades.

A Challenging Build

The design of the home mixed with the safety requirements of the island created some interesting challenges. The home had to be constructed completely above grade to adhere to tidal surge requirements. The home also needed to come in below the very strict 35-foot allowable height maximum. No small feat for a three-story home with a rooftop deck. With the help of Klob and the BuildBlock team, the owner was able to build exactly what he wanted without sacrificing on strength or design. 

Attention to detail during construction is always key. The home is designed with an open center and very tall walls (30’ 8” on three sides) to allow for a dramatic feel between the livable areas.  This, combined with stepping the walls at the front of the home made it critical to ensure walls, concrete beams, and the ICF decking systems were correctly installed and coordinated throughout construction.  The project’s success is made even more impressive by the fact that the home owner had never built with ICFs before this project. He relied heavily on BuildBlock’s training and installation manuals proving that with determination and education, just about anyone can build with ICFs.

Strong and Resilient

Proximity to the ocean posed a few unique challenges but the most formidable was the threat of Hurricane Irma. This catastrophic storm was the strongest hurricane on record in the open Atlantic region and dealt a direct blow to the Florida Keys towards the end of this home’s construction. The owner knew the storm was coming so he drove down, opened up the garage doors to allow wind and water to pass through (flood vents had been installed along the three garage doors to allow the surge to easily pass through), and then drove home. When the storm hit it caused minor cosmetic damage to the outside of the Florida Beach House which was easily repaired. The storm caused major damage throughout the islands but there was no structural damage to The Florida Beach House. By comparison the resort across the street suffered considerable damage and much of it had to be rebuilt.

Efficient, Safe, and Beautiful

The interior of the home boasts some impressive advantages as well. To allow easy access to every floor, an elevator was installed with ICFs providing the necessary strength and fire ratings. The home is 46% more energy efficient that what code requires and comfortable year round. The home is designed to utilize cross coastal breeze and the ICFs help combat Florida’s hot and humid climate by maintaining a cool temperature inside.  

The beauty and success of this home have not gone unnoticed in the community. Few ICF homes have been built in the Florida Keys and this one sits on the only highway between Miami and Key West. During construction, the home was on display for thousands of cars, both local and tourists. The home appeared in many news stories after Hurricane Irma as an example of why some homes weathered the storm so well.  Due to its resilience to hurricane Irma, the community is understanding why building with concrete is important.  This successful build is also acknowledged by the local building department becasue of the homes quality, integrity, and long term viability. Many new ICF homes have been started across the country because of the interest generated by this home.

To learn more about the strength of ICFs in the face of natural disasters, visit the safety section of our website. To learn more about the process of building with ICFs, visit our free online training site!

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