Fenton, Dave, and Joe Groen welcome healthy competition. Not because they need it, but because they want it.
The father and two sons are the principals behind Groen Construction, a family-owned and operated full-service (including design) residential and commercial builder out of Rochester, N.H. The firm specializes in ICF (insulated concrete form) construction, though offer traditional construction services as well. Residential projects range from $250,000 to $2.5 million, mostly custom work with occasional spec homes.
Business is good, with a half-dozen residential and commercial projects in work. Groen Construction benefits from ICF’s rising popularity as the go-to for exceptional construction durability, comfort, and value. Which leaves the Groens wondering … why aren't more of our competitors building with ICF?
“We’re excited about ICF and want it to grow,” says Fenton Groen. “I wish there were more ICF general contractors because it would help grow the whole field. A rising tide lifts all boats.”
They should know. They’ve been offering ICF construction services for 18 years. The eureka moment arrived at a 2001 NAHB event when Dave tracked down his father and brother and said, “Hey, you’ve got to come take a look at this ICF booth!” There was no looking back. In fact, their belief in ICF construction has only intensified.
The puzzle has always been why there are so few ICF contractors taking the field. After all, owners love ICF. “In 18 years we’ve never had a residential or commercial customer say, ‘I wish I had not spent the money on ICF.’ The police and fire chiefs in a nearby town talk us up before state meetings all the time. The 19,000 square foot building we built for them cut their heating bill by $30,000 a year. That saves taxpayers nearly $150,000 every five years,” explains Groen.
It’s a great story. But Groen is just getting started. He thinks adding ICF construction to any residential builder’s arsenal is a smart business move:
- Rapid Learning Curve. “The skills required for ICF are way more closely aligned with a framing crew than a traditional concrete contractor. We always look first at hiring someone with framing experience over someone with concrete experience,” explains Dave. ICF assembly complements stick-built framing.
- Sells Itself. An ICF system typically adds about 10 percent to residential project cost (and pencils-out competitively on commercial work). Even so, 50 percent of homeowners opt for ICF once they weigh the benefits. “There’s no better way to set yourself apart from the competition,” David advises.
- No Thermal Breaks. No Mold. No Problem. Gone are all the familiar headaches of traditional stick-built construction, like mold issues. “One fairly sizable hotel chain switched over to ICF because of problems with metal stud curtain walls,” Fenton says.
For the Groens, adding ICF to your service set is a “no brainer.” But they understand every contractor’s situation is different. The way forward for the Groens is clear: “ICF is an incredibly versatile system that we can apply to just about any situation.”
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