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Alternative Energy Construction LLC owner Mike Kirkpatrick is working on an Ash Grove home built to withstand winds of 190 mph on the main floor and 250 mph in the walkout basement and safe room.
Alternative Energy Construction LLC owner Mike Kirkpatrick is working on an Ash Grove home built to withstand winds of 190 mph on the main floor and 250 mph in the walkout basement and safe room.

Business Spotlight: Storm Weathered

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Last edited 9:56 a.m., Dec. 4, 2013

If Mike Kirkpatrick needed a reminder he was in the right business, he got it on May 8, 2009.

The owner of Alternative Energy Construction LLC, which specializes in storm-resistant insulated concrete forms, was in Fair Grove that day when a storm that produced an EF2 tornado blew through town.

“I had driven north out of Springfield and ended up in a convenience store in Fair Grove,” Kirkpatrick says from his 1501 W. College St. office and shop under remodeling. “I watched a mobile home blow by. It makes it real. I’m very fortunate to be involved with this, to tell you the truth.”

Kirkpatrick, who has worked as a general contractor for about 20 years, relocated from California to southwest Missouri 23 years ago to be closer to family. His original company, Kirkpatrick Construction, was building heavy-duty houses when he discovered ICF a more durable and efficient way to build.

“What we build is concrete houses and commercial buildings,” says Kirkpatrick, who works with the owner and builder of the Pensmore mansion near Highlandville. “I buy all my stuff from Steven Huff, who invented the TransForm system and has another system called ThermoForm. We use his stuff exclusively.”

Alternative Energy Construction also uses Helix steel-fiber twisted rebar, which was originally developed for use in missile silos and, Kirkpatrick says, creates something like a Kevlar jacket around a building. AEC builds walls up to 30 feet tall in the shop, similar to premanufactured roofs. The walls are then loaded on trucks and shipped out. Once on the job site, those wall frames are tipped up with a small crane, filled with concrete and locked into place.

It’s a type of construction that has been around for about 20 years, and Kirkpatrick believes it will be around for many more.

“I think we’re building houses now the way most people will be building them in 100 years. I know I’ll never go back to wood,” says Kirkpatrick. “This is the highest-end of ICF you can get. It’s more accurate, it’s easier to use, it’s less labor-intensive. It’s more accurate and the ease of use is probably about half compared to old systems.”

Business has been steady enough for AEC that remodeling work on his shop has slowed, as has development of his website. The company finished 2012 with revenue of $750,000, and Kirkpatrick says this year is closing in on $700,000.

AEC currently is working on five houses ranging from $180,000 to $550,000. Kirkpatrick says they are built with a tongue-in-cheek 500-year warranty and can be heated with a match and cooled with an ice cube.

“The reality of it is they probably will last over 500 years,” says Kirkpatrick, who is lining up jobs in Fayetteville, Ark., and St. Louis, as well. “They won’t rot. The ones we build now are a minimum of EF4 tornado resistant.”

Built to withstand 200-mile-per-hour winds, storm safety inspired Chris and Christe Guise, of Walnut Shade, to look into ICF construction.

“We’re up on a hill close to Branson, and I just thought storms that come through are going to be a little bit stronger and I wanted a little more security,” says Chris Guise. “I saw him on Craigslist for ICF and it was very reasonable, so I thought I need to talk to this guy.”

AEC worked on the site for five to six months, then Guise took over and did some of the work on his home and contracted out the rest. He’s been pleased with the results of his ICF home, including the energy-efficiency of it.

“I really think it’s the wave of the future, or at least it should be,” Guise says. “If the price is reasonable, it’s really the way to go.”

Guise says most residential construction quotes were in the $100 per square foot range, and the ICF work edged up toward $125 per square foot.

Cost has been the biggest hang-up for builders so far.

“It does cost more to build this way, typically about 10 to 15 percent more than 2x4s,” says Kirkpatrick, noting the benefits far outweigh the size of the initial investment. “The general rule of thumb is in 3-5 years you’ll definitely make up any extras that you paid and after that it will continue to pay you back. And it’s very close to 50 percent that you save on energy. There are some 1,200-foot houses that TF did in Joplin that were all electric. They spent less than $50 a month on utilities. Plus, there are insurance companies that, if you have a concrete home, will reduce your insurance [rates] by up to 25 percent.”

Energy seems to be a key driver for ICF construction.

“The product has a long life cycle. You don’t have to deal with mold or mildew, or termites inside the thing,” says Paul Lais, an account manager for TF Forming Systems. “I think energy will drive it in the long-term. I don’t see energy costs going down anytime soon.”[[In-content Ad]]

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