ICFs key in new Louisville high-performance hotel

By Steve Arel
Editorial director

One of Louisville, Ky.’s newest hotels was designed to be one the city’s highest performing.

Developers and designers peg the anticipated efficiency of the Holiday Inn Express in downtown – expected to use 30-35 percent less energy annually than similar-sized structures – to a chance they took on using insulated concrete forms (ICFs) as the core of the hotel’s walls.

“It was a good move, without a doubt,” said Benjamin Van Eps, architect and partner with Butler, Rosenbury and Partners. He served as the construction effort’s lead architect and project manager.

The eight-story, 85,000-square foot Holiday Inn Express, featuring LED lighting throughout the building and an enhanced HVAC system, opened in April, just in time to capitalize on the scores of out-of-towners visiting Louisville as part of the lead up to the Kentucky Derby.

Construction – and a challenge – began 14 months earlier on a relatively small lot at the corner of Market and Eighth streets.

Developers initially considered two approaches to create a sturdy, long-lasting skeleton: post-tensioned or concrete masonry plank and block. Both have advantages (allow for unlimited height and free-span design) and disadvantages (labor intensive and pricey).

So Van Eps and the contractor for Dunn Hospitality, which owns the facility, considered ICFs. Though neither had experience using the product, they considered it a viable option because it comes together similar to concrete masonry but without the expense of post-tensioned design and the installation would speed up the construction process.

Fox Blocks, a leader in the ICF industry, supplied the forms that would be key to help the building take shape.

The forms, set atop footers, contain nearly three inches of rigid foam encasing each of the units, which, once anchored into place, had concreted filled into the 12-inch wide cores.

Developers attributed the speediness of the hotel construction – finished about three months quicker than comparable projects – to the use of ICFs. As the structures were installed, exterior finishes and interior gypsum boards could be attached in stages directly to the ICFs.

That enabled groups of workers to complete their respective duties as the building rose, rather than waiting for the entire skeleton to be completed and forcing certain crews to wait on or work over others.

“With typical construction, you have an army of people waiting there for one guy to finish,” Van Eps said. “With ICFs, it was like a train and kept moving along.”

The hotel is the tallest ICF structure in Louisville, said David Morris of Fox Blocks.

The makeup of the forms also contributes significantly to comfort of its occupants. Being that the hotel sits just feet from a bustling roadway, the insulated units provide a much-needed barrier from the noise outside, making the traffic passing by almost unnoticeable, Morris said.

The price tag for ICFs was somewhat higher than other construction approaches, Van Eps said. However, the accelerated construction pace and likely return on investment made its use worthwhile.

“These owners were savvy in terms of what was gained with faster construction,” Van Eps said. “They were able to open sooner and generate additional revenue.”

In fact, the success with ICFs in the Holiday Inn Express has impacted the way in which Van Eps designs. He now considers ICFs a “go-to product.”

The challenge now is convincing owners and lenders of the value.

“Trying to sell that to banks and owners when they’re doing budgets, it’s tough,” Van Eps said. In the long run, “it’s going to be faster, more efficient and cheaper to operate. I’d push it anywhere I can. There are so many advantages to it.” 


Topics: Architectural Firms, Brick - All Applications, Building Owners and Managers, Construction Firms, Consulting - Green & Sustainable Strategies and Solutions, Energy Saving Products, Engineering Firms, Exteriors, Great Commercial Buildings, Healthy & Comfortable Buildings, Hospitality, HVAC - Heating, Cooling, and Ventilation, Indoor Air Quality (IAQ), Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF), Insulation, Lighting - Energy Efficient Lighting, Structured Insulated Panels (SIPS), Sustainable Communities, Sustainable Trends and Statistics, Technology, Thermal Envelope - Building Envelope, Urban Planning and Design, Ventilation, Wall Systems / Curtain Walls

Companies: Fox Blocks


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