Doug Edwards and Kevin Edwards
Edwards Design Group
Small Custom Homebuilder
Autoclaved Aerated Concrete
A 3,500-square-foot, single-story home with an observation deck built in northern Scottsdale for the Foster family. With exterior walls of autoclaved aerated concrete (AAC) block, the Santa Fe style home is built to withstand desert extremes and provide an effective building envelope for homeowners who want to reduce their energy costs.
Edwards Design Group became the first builder in Arizona to use autoclaved aerated concrete in 1999.
"It's strong, light, insulating, fireproof, mold-resistant, and has excellent design flexibility," says Doug Edwards. "I just feel lucky that we learned about AAC and are able to use it on our projects. It has so many construction advantages and easily meets hurricane and building codes, I don't know if it can get any better."
"Many contractors are hesitant to change their routine because they are used to making a certain amount of profit on a job and aren't usually willing to risk trying something new," says Edwards. "The combination of financial and time constraints in the construction industry makes trying a new product a somewhat risky venture."
"We'd been looking for alternative building products, but we usually ended up shunning them because we found a lot of problems with them. There are other alternative block products on the market, but nothing really struck us until AAC came around. The AAC material had so many positive attributes, it just made sense to us. After doing some research, we found that AAC had been around in Europe for over 80 years. It has great insulating, termite-resistant, and fire-resistant properties. Even when exposed to fire, it releases no toxins or gases. And it's nearly soundproof."
"Our first AAC project took more effort and was a bit more expensive because it was a new approach to building, but it was well worth our time to learn how to use it. AAC will not rot, warp, corrode, or otherwise decompose, providing a very durable material that will last for many years. In order to make AAC more affordable for our clients, we started our own AAC masonry crew. Now we are able to offer AAC homes to our clients at the same cost as a wood-framed home, and we feel really good as far as our conscience is concerned."
"When compared to conventional home construction, AAC construction can sometimes be a bit slower, but as our crew gets more experienced, this may not always be the case. In the meantime, we pride ourselves on delivering an AAC home for the same price as a stick-built home. Our in-house crew allows for better control over quality of craftsmanship, scheduling, and cost. We feel that our clients get a product that is superior when compared to wood-framed construction. The fire resistance and insulating qualities alone make our homes much safer and more energy efficient. We usually have to educate homeowners about the benefits of AAC, but once installed, the qualities speak for themselves."
"We use three different types of AAC block on our jobs. The first is our standard building block, which is 8" tall, 24" long, and either 8", 10", or 12" thick. We typically use 10" thick block on our projects for its combination of insulating value, structural strength, and average unit cost. Then there is a same-sized block with a 4" bore in it for corners and door and window openings, which requires vertical rebar and gets filled with concrete. The third type of block is a bond beam block (U-block), which is for the top course and has a v-channel cut out for the horizontal and vertical rebar attachments."
AAC is highly adaptable to a variety of architectural designs and can easily be engineered to meet structural load requirements. It can also reduce jobsite waste if components are pre-made and tailored to building-specific features.
Doug Edwards is the head designer and partner for Edwards Design Group, a design/build firm formed in 1985 that specializes in using AACs to build custom homes in and around the Phoenix area. With his brother Kevin, who heads up construction management, Doug Edwards builds between 5 and 10 ten homes a year ranging in price from $650,000 to $750,000.
Why Edwards builds with AAC:
"Thanks to versatile materials like AAC, it's easy to construct environmentally friendly homes that are comfortable, affordably priced, and aesthetically appealing."