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Expanded polystyrene foundations to be introduced to north

Wednesday March 19, 2014
Rick Garrick/Wawatay News

Moose Cree’s William Small is looking to introduce an expanded polystyrene foundation system to communities across northern Ontario.

Moose Cree’s William Small is planning to introduce a new polystyrene foundation system to First Nation communities through his company — Eco Fab Structures Inc.

“We’re going to be the first distributors of this system for Ontario,” Small said during the 12th Annual First Nations Northern Housing Conference. “We’re quite excited about this new product. I think it answers a lot of the problems we have in First Nations housing, in general the mould issue that comes along with some of the techniques that are currently being used today.”

Invented and developed by Poly Core Canada Inc. in Alberta, the foundation system is made from expanded polystyrene panels for insulation with embedded galvanized steel construction studs for strength. The spacing and gauge/width of the steel studs is customized to meet the specific load and engineering requirements of each project.

“The styrofoam embeds the steel studs,” Small said. “The whole structure is encased in styrofoam. There is no thermal break — the steel studs only go to a certain point — you have the styrofoam on the outside.”

The polystyrene panels are available in four-by-eight foot sections, which are eight inches thick with an R36 value. Textures or coatings can be applied directly onto the exterior of the panels, or they can be sheeted directly with siding or cladding as the project requires.

Small said the foundation panels can also be used for walls on the first level of a residence.
“If you don’t want to put in a basement, you can also use (the panels) for a crawl space,” Small said.

Small said the system also includes basement floor panels that are placed over the gravel base.

“Then you put your floor finish on there,” Small said. “Some of the First Nations communities have a very limited supply of concrete in the (north) where I am from. The cost of concrete is quite expensive, but here you can use the system for the flooring.”

Small said the panels are easy to transport as each four-by-eight panel only weighs 55 pounds.

“Out west they build all the R-2000 homes with this system,” Small said. “But it’s never been brought into Ontario. I’ve been researching an alternative system for building houses for the last couple of years and this is probably the best that I’ve come across.”

Small has already set up a plant in Timmins to distribute the panels across the north.

“It can be used for general construction too,” Small said. “You can build warehouses, you can build garages, you can build commercial buildings.”

Polycore Canada usually custom cuts the panels for each project so there is virtually no waste at the construction site.

No special skills or tools are required to set up the panels, and heavy lifting equipment is not required as each panel is light enough for one person to lift and maneuver.

The expanded polystyrene panels are produced from a construction-grade form of Styrofoam that is inexpensive to produce, 100 per cent inert, waterproof and non-toxic.


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