Famed architectural scholar Vincent J. Scully once observed architecture is a “a continuing dialogue between the generations.”
If so, what message are we leaving the next generation? One of resilience and resolve? Or indifference to the mounting evidence of climate change?
There’s no mistaking where Leigh Overland stands. The proof: His personal residence and a dozen more in various stages of design, development, and construction that exemplify sustainability in the Connecticut-New York metro area.
Leigh Overland, AIA, is an award-winning residential and light commercial architect dedicated to resilient design principles. His building concepts are a masterclass in environmental toughness, informed by a 40-plus year career. Today that sensibility is characterized by five basic homebuilding components:
- Rooftop structural insulated (SIP) panels for extreme insulation without rafters
- Interior metal-stud walls fabricated to exceed commercial grade standard
- Factory-made floors with in-floor radiant heat and cooling
- Triple-pane door and windows throughout
However, it’s the fifth component that is the resilient heart of an Overland home.
That centerpiece component is insulated concrete form (ICF), a cast-in-place exterior wall system that uses Lego-like steel-reinforced foam blocks to create envelopes of extreme resilience.
“If a prospective client asks about ICF, I explain why the system is impervious to fire, wind, water, rot, and pests. I’ve never had a client say, ‘No, I’d rather have a building that will catch on fire or blow away in a storm and costs a lot to heat and cool. ICF is a very easy sell,” Overland explains.
To top it off, ICF also costs less to build with.
“Several years ago, I’d say it penciled-out about the same as stick-built,” Overland says. “The savings were reflected in reduced energy costs, insurance premiums, maintenance, and such. Now it’s about 5% less than stick-built. The system requires far fewer subcontractors to install. The entire home is framed in just several days.”
Other big discounts come from a substantially downsized HVAC system. ICF mass “acts like an R-44 wall,” Overland says.
As for design flexibility, the architect doesn’t have any reservations about his ability to meet the owner’s requirements and budget. His ICF portfolio is a testament to homestyle diversity. In fact, Overland’s first ICF residential project was an homage to a Scottish castle.
With so much going for ICF—resilience, cost, and designability—it’s fair to ask Overland why ICF isn’t more broadly discussed as the silver bullet for resilient construction.
The award-winning designer likens the situation to the one faced by Henry Ford, who said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” In Overland’s view, it’s up to architects to step up and show clients resilient and sustainable alternatives to traditional homebuilding.
A Call to Lead
The good news is that resolve comes with a prize. “ICF would differentiate the architect and builder as it now differentiates me. We want to deliver a better product. A lot of what I heard at the AIA convention in Chicago this summer stressed resilience. Yes, the seas are rising. Storms are worse.
“What are we leaving our children with? It really is a conversation between generations. It’s time to design for the future.”
Learn more about ICF can help differentiate your practice with a proven resilient building strategy.