Two days before bids were due on a 110,000-square-foot, five-story multifamily project, four of the bidding general contractors privately called the owner with the same question: Where did he come up with the cost of construction numbers?

They were at least 20% below what they expected. Had they missed something?

For Jonathan Byler, owner and operator of Byler Holdings, a Pennsylvania-based business group and project owner, the calls confirmed what he already knew. Not only did he make a great choice of construction method, but his company gained a greener structure with tenant-loving acoustical, energy, and safety features no local competitor can match.

Breakthrough Construction Savings

Welcome to North Cornwall Commons Apartments. The 110-unit community, comprised of one- and two-bedrooms, greeted its first tenants early last December. An identical building is now under construction with an expected October 2022 delivery. The two-phase apartment project is part of a nearly complete $158 million master-planned community in Pennsylvania’s Lebanon County.

The cost breakthrough nearly didn’t happen. “I told my director of construction, ‘Let’s at least look into it. I’m not saying we’re doing it. Let’s just explore it,’” Byler recalls.

The difference-maker is insulated concrete form (ICF). ICF is a steel-reinforced, cast-in-place concrete wall system formed by stacking Lego-like foam blocks. “GCs told us we were coming in at least 20% below stick-built. From a quality standpoint, an environmentally friendly standpoint, and cost standpoint, ICF is superior. Going with ICF was a no-brainer,” says the first-time multifamily owner and operator.

Byler singles out an assortment of factors in his ICF decision, besides a substantial discount:

  • Acoustics. Byler knows neighbor noise is the biggest tenant complaint. That practically goes away with ICF. “This is a five-story building. It’s amazing how noise goes away with concrete walls and floors. Noise complaints are just about nonexistent,” he says.
  • Energy. Building mass and ICF’s inherently high R-value represent big heating and cooling savings. “ICF allows us to spec HVAC units at half-size without compromising tenant comfort. That’s a big deal.”
  • Code. “We had absolutely no issues with permitting,” he reports.
  • Resilience. ICF structures are extremely resilient to extreme wind, fire, and rain events. “When it comes to natural disasters, hurricanes, and such, it’s so much stronger and safer than other building methods,” Byler explains. “It’s a forever type building.”
  • Insurance. Byler adds, “Insurance companies are super fond of ICF. Going with ICF greatly reduced our expected premium. It’s a significant savings.”
  • Constructability. “It’s basically four weeks a floor. The first two weeks is foam block setup. The third week is the pour. The fourth week is installation of the concrete plank. We’re observing the same schedule on the new one, too,” reports Byler.

Byler doesn’t mince words on how he’d advise other multifamily owners and operators. “I think you’d be crazy to not consider ICF. My director of construction wasn’t familiar with it, and he couldn’t believe how easily it all came together. It’s just a smarter way to build.”

A 20% construction discount doesn’t hurt, either.

Learn more about how ICF construction can help multiply net operating income on your next multifamily project.