As home-building costs rise, Phoenix area company uses foam to build houses

Officials with a Phoenix-based international company say they have solved the problem of high home costs and the environmental impacts of lumber.

Home housing processes and issues with lumber are both massive issues that Arizona is facing. Supply chain issues have dramatically impacted the cost of lumber, which, in turn, increases the cost of building homes.

For 50 years, Strata International Group has been working to solve the problem of using wood for homes, and their solution is to use foam.

At what could be the world's quietest construction site, machinery to cut wood is replaced with crews heating up a wire with a battery pack, stretching it out, and slicing the foam like butter. Then, they glue it to the rest of the house, which turns into more foam.

Eventually, the foam is covered in a thin layer of concrete formula, and people would not be able to tell the home was made from foam.

"So, it is 100% breathable 100% livable. FDA approved and 100% recyclable," said Amir Saebi with Strata International Group.

The product offered by Strata was used to build a 6,000-square-foot home in Phoenix. Saebi said while lumber has only grown in cost, the cost of foam has not really increased. In fact, Saebi said building a home with foam can be 10% to 40% cheaper.

"No supply chains in the last year [have] ever affected us, and no supply chain moving forward are affecting us," said Saebi.

Strata has built hundreds of structures with this method around the world. Currently, they have 1 project in the works in Arizona, including their headquarters. 

While people may think foam makes a rickety home, officials with Strata say people need to think again. In fact, they say the foam can withstand more than 200 miles per hour winds. They say the material is earthquake-proof, hurricane-proof, and fire-resistant.

As for homes built with foam, Saebi says since the home is essentially made out of insulation, it’s more than twice as energy-efficient as a traditional wood structure.

"This is the only type of construction that makes sense, moving forward, due to climate change, due to supply chain," said Saebi. "This is a type of product that will make sense to build with, not only because of cost and timeframe, but it saves our world by being the most eco-friendly product to work with."

So far, over a hundred homes were built with foam in 2022 by Strata, and their plan is to double that amount, every year.

Contractors learn how to build foam houses

On Sept. 28, dozens of contractors learned how to build these foam houses.

"[There] is contractors from all around," said Saebi. "The United States, sometimes international contractors. We've built in China, Japan, Dubai, Mexico."

"I'm trying to train a framer, the wood framer, to framing the foam, and they really like it," said Hos Armani. "The best part they like is it's safe and very light."

Chicago-based lender Federal Savings Bank was also at the training site in Tempe, to help anyone iron out the complexities of lending involving foam constructions.

"I think we're a little unique in the business," said Mike Crossett with Federal Savings Bank. "We've been super innovative over the last decade to really understand unique methods of construction like this that not only have a lot of value not just for general contractors, but for clients."

Company working to build low-income housing

As Arizona, along with the rest of the country, deals with an affordable housing crisis, people with Strata believe they have the solution to that, and they are already putting it into action in major U.S. cities.

"Why not be able to provide housing for someone that can create an opportunity for someone?" said Saebi.

Officials with Strata said they are working with Los Angeles County to build three-story foam housing that would be fabricated in the Phoenix area, and brought to California. The homes could be used to house the homeless, or low-income families.

"Working on the blueprints for those communities, to be able to place that in areas that are needed in Downtown Los Angeles," said Saebi.

 The company is also meeting with Arizona local officials.

"This will alow people that are currently life-long residents of Mohave County, with a product like this, be able to afford something," said Mohave County Community Services Director Michael J. Smith.

"We need a different way of building," said Lake Havasu City Councilor Nancy Campbell.

Company officials say their goal from here on is to take portions of their profit from their luxury single-family homes, and put that into their affordable housing projects to keep costs as low as possible.

Strata International Group

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