Teams of building industry professionals are working together to create an affordable housing project in Franklin Lakes, N.J. for people with physical and developmental disabilities. Constructed of modular components situated on durable precast concrete panel foundations, the apartments and central community building are scheduled to open in August 2018.

Five two-story buildings will house 40 special needs apartments when the project is complete. According to architect Stephen L. Schoch, cost-effective and time-saving Xi Wall panels made the most sense to serve as the foundations for the structures.

“After considering the cost and timeline for conventional foundations methods, we elected to specify Superior Walls foundations as a more cost-effective and faster way to get all the foundations in place and ready for the modular building units,” says Schoch, managing principal at Kitchen & Associates Services, Inc. “Additionally, the panels made good use of the crane equipment already positioned on the job site for placement of the modules. 

But that wasn’t the only aspect that was being thought about. 

“There was another consideration. We had little room to stage large stockpiles of materials on the jobsite. That made the speed of being able to take delivery and have the foundation walls quickly placed by Northeast Precast very attractive.”

Schoch relates that his firm typically specifies the energy-efficient panels for projects requiring speed of construction. He cites faster close-in rates and the ease of insulating the below-ground perimeter walls as additional assets of the panels.

The special high-strength, low-water concrete mix of the panels requires no additional damp-proofing. The unique design makes the walls thermally isolated and insulated from the exterior elements. The foundation is monolithically poured with durable, high-strength concrete for solid structural integrity and reinforced with steel rebar and polypropylene fibers.

Developer Insights

For Joe Alpert, president of The Alpert Group, time is also a key factor for his team in working with Superior Walls foundations.

“We save at least a month—maybe two—in construction time by using precast concrete foundations,” says Alpert, whose company serves as developer of the project. “This is the second time we’ve used these foundations and we have a third project starting soon.” 

Alpert thinks the insulated crawlspace will help with long-term energy savings and the overall durability of the project. He also believes the flexibility of working with a manufacturer capable of custom changes helps keep the project on track.

“With the Franklin Lakes project, we missed the worst of the bad weather this past winter and kept construction on schedule because we were able to get the precast foundation set in place quickly,” says Alpert. “Northeast Precast was able to mobilize with as little as one day’s notice to get the walls set. This meant the oncoming harsh winter weather did not affect our progress.”

This will not be the last time Alpert’s company uses Superior Walls.

“Overall, we believe that the precast concrete panels are far superior to other foundation alternatives,” says Alpert. “We are recommending this product for all our future projects.”

Efficient and Environmentally Friendly

Known for its durability, speed of installation (usually in a single day) and damp-free basement conditions, Superior Walls products are pre-engineered and custom-manufactured off site in indoor production facilities. This eliminates any on-site soil contamination such as the form oil used for poured walls. No on-site sprays or bituminous coatings are required to make the walls damp-proof. The wall panels were delivered directly to the project site where certified crews installed the precast wall panels.

Since the panels are engineered and manufactured with insulated concrete studs, the company’s products’ reduce the amount of materials used to build a structure, including wood and concrete. This helps reduce the carbon footprint of the facility. The company is earned the NGBS Green Certified Product designation by the Home Innovation Research Labs back in 2009 and remains the only energy-efficient foundation system approved by the independent labs. Additionally, the Xi Plus wall panels provide R values that meet or exceed energy conservation values for both the International Energy Conservation Code and the International Residential Code.

The 14-acre project site for the complex was purchased in 2013 for $2 million by the borough of Franklin Lakes with monies from their Affordable Housing Trust Fund. According to Alpert, the $11 million project is being financed with a combination of funds from the borough, Bergen County and the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency. The Alpert Group has partnered on the project with the Housing Development Corporation of Bergen County to form the Franklin Lakes Supportive Housing Urban Renewal LLC.

Once complete, the project will be open to special needs individuals, with preference given to those with Asperger’s syndrome or multiple sclerosis.