Fortified Precast Technologies, LLC has outlined an ambitious Florida residential real estate development plan, leveraging a partnership with German precast concrete production specialist Vollert Group and Opportunity Zone provisions in the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA). The company’s Fortified Precast Opportunity Fund is authorized to raise $100 million in $20 million increments to build five plants incorporating Vollert mix delivery, form pallet and companion robotics or casting components. At 32,720 sq. ft. of daily wall panel output, each operation would be capable of supplying more than 4,200 home projects annually. The capacity would be initially targeted to the Sunshine State market, which has seen residential building permits climb from 116,200 in 2016, to 122,700 in 2017 and 142,300 last year.
“The residential construction industry is mired in the stultified, ‘This is how we do it’ methodology for building exterior walls,” says Barry Stem, chief executive officer of Ocala, Fla.-based Fortified Precast Technologies, whose prior precast ventures have included the Duratek and Intrepid brands. “Florida building codes continue to strengthen to meet the life-threatening necessities presented by catastrophic natural events, wind load criteria, and impact resistance. The current concrete masonry [wall] solution is hampered in increasing costs to conform to the new requirements and a severe skilled labor shortage. When coupled with additional required inspections and often weather-interrupted schedules, higher costs and extending the length of time on the project site are inevitable.”
Virginia-based consultant EazyDoit Inc. has assisted in structuring the Fortified Precast Opportunity Fund offerings per TCJA guidelines. Investors can defer certain capital gains by participating in qualified funds underwriting projects in Act-defined Opportunity Zones—specially created geographic districts, primarily in urban areas where investment is wanting.
NIST Resilience program funds concrete, masonry building research
The National Institute of Standards and Technology has announced grants for research into how earthquakes, wind and fire affect the built environment, targeting results that inform building designs, codes and standards. One of 12 projects addresses combustible-material performance in the face of hazard exposure; three others focus on concrete or masonry structure behavior following seismic events.
“Natural hazards represent a significant threat to the well-being of our communities. In 2018 alone, the U.S. experienced 14 separate billion-dollar events, with total losses exceeding $91 billion. The monetary figure does not reflect the many lives lost and countless lives disrupted,” says NIST Engineering Laboratory Director Howard Harary, whose office manages the Disaster Resilience Grant Research Program. “Each of these grants represents research that is a substantial step toward creating a more disaster resilient nation.”
Project awards were announced during the 2019 Disaster Resilience Symposium on the NIST campus outside Washington, D.C. The research goals align with NIST disaster resilience efforts and support development of science-based building codes. Among awardees and their research aims:
- Research Foundation for SUNY for University at Buffalo ($584,000). Improving unreinforced masonry buildings’ seismic performance and resilience by developing a reliable and cost-effective retrofitting framework.
- University of Colorado ($366,000). Assessing retrofit solutions so reinforced concrete buildings can be used immediately after an earthquake, an outcome called “functional recovery.”
- University of Texas at Austin ($691,000). Analytical tools to describe reinforced concrete wall failure, plus effectiveness of retrofit schemes to limit damage from earthquakes.
- University of Maryland ($550,000). Identify why certain materials and structural components are more likely to be ignited by embers and develop a model describing materials’ degradation and ignition.
A nonregulatory U.S. Department of Commerce agency, NIST promotes U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards and technology in ways that enhance economic security and improve quality of life.