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Posted 7/3/2018

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By Sean McBride

When you think of Styrofoam, you usually think of it as holding your latest purchase in place while it’s shipped to you in a box through the mail. You pull out your product, recycle the Styrofoam, and never think about it again. The engineers working on the new Pierce Terrace Elementary School at Fort Jackson thought of a whole new way to use Styrofoam- for the walls of the school.

Called insulated concrete form walls, these forms come in 48 inch long by 16 inch tall sections and can be connected together and cut to the exact length needed for the wall. The outsides are foam and are connected by plastic grooved pieces that hold the reinforcing steel bars. Concrete is then poured inside the form to create a stable, insulated wall.

“Using the ICF walls is a huge time saver for our construction process,” said Brian Agan, project engineer. “The form serves as the entire wall, meaning no insulation or vapor barriers have to be added like what usually must be done when constructing plain concrete walls. Also, the interior drywall will adhere directly to the foam, allowing us to make progress that we never could have made with traditional methods.”

After the first layer of ICF was set, the team was also able to concurrently lay the floor slab while the remaining layers of wall were installed. This is the first time the Charleston District has used the ICF walls on a project before, but these have been used around the country on other Department of Defense Education Activity projects.

The ICF walls are just one of the major unique updates for the Pierce Terrace project. The project also calls for pre-cast concrete panels to be used for the walls of the gym. Due to the height of the gym, ICF walls aren’t allowed to be used. The pre-cast panels are made offsite in a manufacturing facility and shipped to the school for installation.

“Each panel weighs about 30,000 pounds and it takes an entire truck for one panel,” said Agan. “This process allows for more consistency in the construction of the panels and we were able to install them as soon as the site’s ground work was complete because they were already made.”

The building’s footings, interior underground electrical and telecomm distribution, and plumbing pipe installation are complete. The surrounding areas have been graded and water and overhead power lines have been installed.

With such a huge project going up from scratch, there are a lot of moving pieces to be coordinated and the $27 million school is still on track for completion in time to give the teachers and administrators time to move in before the doors officially open to students in August 2019.