State’s first home made of foam built in Jonestown

JONESTOWN, Texas (KXAN) — With a breathtaking view overlooking Lake Travis, a new home being built in Jonestown is drawing some attention from neighbors. The nearly 7,500 square foot has zero wood, brick, or insulation. It is completely made of foam.

“I think the neighbors might have thought I was crazy when they saw the truckloads of foam pull up,” Aaron Rowsell, the homeowner of the three-story house in Jonestown, explained. Rowsell, a former contractor himself, first heard of homes being built with foam about 20 years ago. He said if he ever was going to build his dream home, foam was the material he wanted to use.

Strata International Group Inc. is the Phoenix-based company that developed this groundbreaking building technique. It is known as SABS, or Saebi Alternative Building System, named after its creator Dr. Nasser Saebi.

How does it work?

The company creates large blocks of foam, which are made up of 98% air, that can be shaped and glued together to create the skeleton of the home. Pieces of foam are glued together using a type of liquid foam that cures fast. The walls, the floor, the stairs, everything is foam except for the foundation.

Once the shape of the house is built, the company coats the entire structure with a patent concrete mixture known as sabscrete. A quarter-inch of the mixture is placed on the entire home to give it a hard shell and more durable structure. Both the foam and concrete mixture are 100% recyclable, according to the company.

A side view of Rowsell’s home as the final touches are put on the shell.

Homeowners can then customize how they want the interior and exterior of the home to look. Amir Saebi, the vice president of Strata International Group, provided 3D renderings of Rowsell’s home to show what it will eventually look like. Below you will find those 3D renderings.

A 3D rendering of Rowsell’s home that shows how it will look when completed (Photo courtesy: Strata International Group Inc.)

What is the difference to traditional construction?

The company said the SABS method provides major cost savings to the homeowner and the builder during construction. Because the foam is light weight, the need for a large construction crew is not necessary.

Saebi said Rowsell’s home can be built using four to five people. Plus, it is cheaper to build with just foam, rather than building with wood.

“Less material used, less labor used,” Saebi explained.

KXAN got to watch the final piece of foam installed to a portion of the roof. It took four guys to slide the piece into place.

“Sometimes you just shake your head at how they’re putting up a four foot by four foot beam that two or three guys are carrying, where as traditional building you would have a crane out here putting that thing into place,” Rowsell said.

The work site is quieter than a construction site you are used to seeing. The crew does not use saws to cut the foam. Instead, they use a tool called a hot knife that can cut any shape you want out of the foam.

Saebi said the foam home does not need insulation at all because the foam is already a great insulator. The company claims its system is the most efficient insulator out of any other building system. That means less energy used to heat and cool your home.

There are also cost savings on maintenance that regular homes go through, such as termite control or treating mold. No wood in your house means no termites, and the foam will not mold, Saebi said.

Is it safe?

Saebi said the company has permits to build in all 50 states that it obtained through the International Code Council. The company says its homes can withstand earthquakes and is fire resistant.

Saebi even said the foam structures have been put through models to show it can withstand wind speeds up to 265 miles per hour.

You can learn more about the company and its building technique on its website.

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