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Habitat House 60 a first of its kind
Lipsey’s home, now started, Bulloch’s first using ICF building process; completed House 59 move-in Sunday
Homeowner to-be Maria Lipsey, backround center, watches as Habitat for Humanity of Bulloch County construction manager Aaron Marcinkevich, bottom center, teaches building techniques using insulating concrete forms to Georgia Southern University and Ogeech
Homeowner-to-be Maria Lipsey, background center, watches as Habitat for Humanity of Bulloch County construction manager Aaron Marcinkevich, bottom center, teaches building techniques using insulating concrete forms to Georgia Southern University and Ogeechee Technical College construction students on Wednesday, March 22. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

Habitat for Humanity of Bulloch County and homeowner to-be Maria Lipsey are hard at work on her house, which is the local Habitat chapter’s 60th but the first to be built using  insulating concrete forms, or  ICF, construction.

The forms look like giant Lego blocks made of Styrofoam. They are indeed made of panels of closed-cell polystyrene – but not that brand – held apart by a framework of black plastic connectors. This week Lipsey, several volunteers and Habitat Bulloch Construction Manager Aaron Marcinkevich have been stacking and linking rows of the forms for the exterior walls. Steel rebar, first vertical and then horizontal, is placed inside the forms at intervals.

When six courses of the forms are in place, rising eight feet tall, wooden bucks for the windows will be added, and eventually, wet concrete will  be pumped into the forms. After it dries for about 48 hours, a continuous concrete shell, sandwiched between foam insulation, will surround the home’s interior.

“There are quite a few advantages,” Marcinkevich said. “One is the speed of construction. Another is, it is extremely high wind-rated, it’s extremely high-rated for earthquakes, and it is virtually fireproof. So this construction method is actually very popular out west where they have a whole lot of wildfires.”

He noted that Habitat for Humanity has been using ICF materials to build homes as part of a massive rebuilding program in Paradise, California, which was largely destroyed by wildfire in 2018.

ICF construction hasn’t been used much even by private contractors in this part of Georgia. But Henry Holley, Cobra Concrete general contractor from Aiken, South Carolina, said that ICF is more commonly used in the mountain areas of northern Georgia, and he has been doing ICF construction in South Carolina for more than 20 years. Holley came to Statesboro earlier this week to advise Marcinkevich and Habitat for Humanity of Bulloch County volunteers on the process.


Speed of construction

With ICF, House 60’s exterior construction should go much faster than the one to two months that would be typical for a traditional house exterior when everything falls into place. But with Habitat’s use of volunteer labor and the current high demand on the local concrete supplier, Marcinkevich does not expect to realize the full advantage.

“If I had a full crew working out here every day and already had like my concrete lined up, you can do the entire exterior of the house in three of four days,” he said. “It’s going to take me probably about two weeks, just because of when my volunteers come out – I’m working on another house right now too – and then lining up the concrete.”

But to Lipsey, whose dream of home ownership is being realized, a forecast September completion date seems timely.


Family of four

A single mother employed at the Walmart Distribution Center, she looks forward to moving into the four-bedroom, two-bath house with her sons Makel, now 10; Vonta, currently 7; and little daughter Ava, who will be 2 in July.

Maria Lipsey attended a Habitat for Humanity orientation session and started the application process about three years ago.

“I’ve always rented and always wanted to be a homeowner, and when they had a seminar, something told me to just go, just give it a try, and I gave it a try,” she said. “With the pandemic and everything I’ve been waiting three years to get into my home.”

Her family’s new home, on West Inman Street near downtown Statesboro, will measure slightly under 1,200 square feet, which is a little larger than a typical Habitat house because of the geometry of the ICF panels. On the outside, it will have a stucco finish – also faster to install than exterior siding – while inside, standard drywall will be screwed to the forms.

“So far I’m loving it. I’m really excited to see the process,” Lipsey said.


Building and buying

As a Habitat homeowner, she is required to put in a total of 250 “sweat equity” work hours, at least 90 hours of which must be in home construction. Lipsey had all this week off to work on the house and after that plans to work on it every weekend. She also expects to help as construction continues on a Habitat house, in the Hopeulikit community toward Portal.  For non-construction work hours, she can volunteer at Spike’s ReStore and in Habitat’s community outreach projects.

With volunteer labor and discounted materials, the house will probably cost about $100,000 to build, said Habitat Bulloch Executive Director Kathy Jenkins. She doesn’t know how much an ICF home might appraise for, but Habitat Bulloch’s last completed four-bedroom, two-bath  standard construction house appraised for $175,000.

She called this an “insane” valuation reflecting Statesboro and Bulloch’s recent home price inflation.

“But that’s not what we sell them to our homeowners for,” Jenkins said. “We sell it for whatever they can afford, and we have a formula that we plug in their income and their debts and it says they can afford to pay this much.”

Habitat homeowners then obtain a 25-year loan either through Habitat or from a U.S. Department of Agriculture home loan program.


Special contributions

Some special support is going into the construction of House 60.

For one thing, June Spencer, who was one of the original Habitat for Humanity of Bulloch County board members and now resides in Honduras, made a major contribution.

“She gave us a large portion of the money to build this house,” Jenkins said.

For another, AMVIC Building System discounted its insulating forms for the ICF process and shipped them down from Canada. Costs of the materials and whether they will be discounted in the future will be considerations in whether the local Habitat chapter uses ICF for more homes.

“We don’t know yet,” Jenkins said. “We’re going to see how this goes, see how it works out cost-wise.”

But the chapter has four prospective homeowners lined up for homes beyond House 60, and she added that one of the four has requested that ICF construction be used for her home if possible.


Houses 59 and 57

Meanwhile, Habitat Bulloch will be dedicating House 59, with homeowner Laterria Mincey, Sunday afternoon, March 26, at 119 Green St. It is a standard construction home.

House 58 was previously completed and is occupied by its homeowner and family.

But House 57, in fact, remains incomplete. It is the one in Hopeulikit, and features another alternative construction approach.  Armor Barns of Statesboro did the framing, so House 57 is a pole-barn framed house.

Construction fell behind schedule, in part because of a lack of volunteers offering to work in that area, said Jenkins and Marcinkevich. But now, they say, Tim Durden of Tim Durden Construction and Building Design has stepped up to guide the construction of House 57 through to completion.

Habitat for Humanity is a nonprofit organization and nondenominational Christian ministry dedicated to providing affordable home ownership in partnership with families in need. For information on volunteering locally, visit

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