Nov 27

Concrete Homes – Built to last!

Concrete Homes

Courtesy of

With an ever growing population in a constant need for new housing options, a planet that seems to want to shake us of her back with record floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes and wild fires, building stronger home as well as conserving non-renewable resources is becoming an absolute imperative. As a result, old and new ideas emerge, and in the field of construction, concrete homes is making a headway.


In addition to pouring the usual concrete slab as the foundation and a driveway, concrete homes replace stick framing with concrete walls that are made with forms. The idea to replace wood structures is by no mean new, adobe homes are some of the oldest dwellings still standing that used rammed earth in lieu of wood. But they require substantial man power and time. Concrete homes on the other hand can be built in very little time with a small crew for about the same price as regular stick framed homes.


Not really! In 1908, while looking for an affordable and durable housing solution, Thomas Edison invented a concrete forming system for homes and patented it! The whole process would take 4 days to erect the mold structure, then pouring the concrete in 6-hour increments, completing the entire project in less than 2 weeks!  In 1937, Frank Lloyd Wright built its famous Fallingwater home in concrete showcasing its strength and ability to create unique shapes that beautiful blend with the surrounding natural setting.

concrete home using insulated concrete forms, ICFs

Setting up insulated concrete forms. Courtesy of


To replace the wood structure, insulated concrete forms (ICF) are used. Once the forms are stacked up to form the wall, they are braced on the outside, a moving scaffolding is used to pour the concrete poured into the walls. Some insulated concrete forms incorporate expanded polistyrene (EPS) for greater insulation (R-60). The next day, the walls are set and framing of the interior walls can start and the scaffolding can be moved to the next house. This process could save up to 2 days of work per house!
Watch how a 250 square foot studio home is built in less that 3 hours in this short video.


Concrete homes are tornado and hurricane proof

Concrete home left standing after Katrina.      Courtesy of

Ask any long-time home owner what features would an ideal house have and the following is mentioned:
– Moisture, mildew and mold protection
– Termite resistant
– Provide better insulation at the same price
– Eliminate cold spots
– Provide even temperature through day and night.
– Protection against wild fires in drought prone regions (concrete is naturally fireproof)
– Withstand high winds (in hurricane prone regions)
– Meet seismic building code requirements (up to zone 4)
– Better sound proofing
Unbelievable but true, concrete homes address every feature in this list without adding extra cost for each problem.


Concrete homes are considered green because they recycle cementitious materials like fly ash, slag cement, silica fume that would otherwise be dumped into landfills.

For builders and home owners looking to green their homes, concrete homes completely eliminate the need for volatile preservatives found in the various glues that make up particle wood panels.

With over 9 states in the US experiencing exceptional to abnormally dry weather in 2015, the need for better insulated homes is paramount. When cooling and heating bills in Southern California can be as high as $600-800 a month for a 2,800-square-foot home, the possibility of saving up to 50% of your energy is a huge plus.


Left in its original grey color , concrete can be experienced as masculine, a bit cold and dull, but the use of concrete finishes can transform this material into warm and stunning surfaces that can be combined with wood, glass and other materials.
Concrete homes also offer a greater flexibility in terms of design. Curved walls can easily be incorporated and cheaper to build. They can be very simple and have been transformed into magnificent designs by architects around the world leveraging the surrounding landscape and terrain. Concrete can accommodate very unique modern futuristic designs and angles and can even be used to build monolythic domes.


Placing concrete in the walls can be challenging and blow-outs can occur. But a experienced operator can take all the necessary precautions to avoid them.

Concrete homes used to cost 3-5% more than standard stick-framed buildings but with a 30-45% energy savings and up to 20% insurance discounts, the monthly operating costs of a concrete homeowner is equal and often even less than regular homes. So cost is no longer an issue when building a concrete home!


In a market that constantly sees ups and downs, concrete homes represents a real business opportunity for concrete operators and pumping companies to stand out. Accurate placement of walls requires expertise and know-how. As in all well-established industries, new ideas can be threatening but the benefits of concrete homes so far outweighs the small learning curve builders have to go through to familiarize themselves with ICFs, pouring techniques etc.

More and more environmentally conscious consumers are doing their research and asking for concrete homes that offer energy-efficient solutions, that are much more durable and less toxic. They will only hire contractors that have experience and can do the work. So while most builders may shy away from new techniques and rather do what they know best, there is a growing new market that is waiting to be grabbed.

What size market are we talking? About 14% of the single family homes built in 2002, that’s about 171,000 homes were concrete homes, according to Jim Nicholl, PCA residential promotion manager. So with increasing unpredictable harsh weather patterns we are seeing all over the world and certainly in the US, the need and future for safer and more sustainable concrete homes is real and promising.

If you are looking for great deals on used concrete pumps or aerial lifts,
call United Equipment Sales at: (503)283-2105.



Nov 05

Panama’s New Canal Expansion opening in 2016!

Concrete pumping

Courtesy of Canal de Panama

Originally built in 1914, the Panama Canal has been working at full capacity for years and was plagued by congestion due to an ever growing international trade. The size of ships having also increased over decades (from Panamax to Post-Panamax ships), the creation of a larger third set of locks was the agreed long-term solution. The idea isn’t new since the US started the construction in 1939 but came to a grinding stop in 1942 when it joined the allied forces in WWII. It is now almost completed, but it wasn’t done overnight!


  • Create 2 new lanes and increase by 1 ½ the maximum width and length of the channels to accommodate Post-Panamax ships. These lanes will be able to carry twice as much cargo and a result double the current canal’s capacity by 2016. In addition to increasing capacity, the third set of locks will also improve productivity, efficiency and safety. It will eliminate the congestion that occurs every year during the high season between December and March that can cause up to a week in delay.
  • Raising 1.5 feet the maximum operational level of the Gatun lake and widening the navigational channel will also increase the water reserve capacity, the quantity of water used by the locks without impacting the supply of water for human consumption.


The new channels will each have three chambers and water saving basins. The third lock in each channel will be re-utilizing 60% of the water thus using 70% less water per transit/lock cycles compared to existing locks. The basins will be filled by gravity (without water pumps) like their older counterparts.


Sept 2007 – The project breaks ground.

July 2009 – Contract is signed with Consortium Grupo Unidos por el Canal (GUPA) to undertake the project.

Sept 2009 – Dredging of Canal’s Atlantic entrance starts (removal of approx. 14.8 million cubic meters of material!)

2010 – Dredging of Pacific section completed (4.6 million cubic meters of material).

July 2011 – Start of pouring structural concrete in the third set of the locks project.

Oct 2011 – 1.4 million cubic of water are used to partially flood the channel (1,300 acres area).

Sept 2012 – Extension of the 14 existing gates allowing a 1 1/2-foot increase the Gatun spillway’s maximum operational level.

June 2013 – Both Pacific and Atlantic maritime entrances are now wider and deeper.

2014-2015 – Installation of 16 new gates.

June 2015 – Both Pacific and Atlantic locks are filled and gates are tested.

April 2016 – Official completion of the project.


Panama Canal concrete placing

Panama Canal Expansion Project – Courtesy of Canal de Panama

To create a larger lock, two 1,400-foot long by 180-foot wide by 60-foot deep lock facilities were built. One to access the Pacific side and the other for the Atlantic side. View complete drawings of the Canal new lock system.


Being prone to landslides, unstable banks and flooding, the job site required a mobile and flexible system for placing material. Concrete and gravel was first placed to lay the foundation. Six Telebelts TB 130 telescopic belt conveyors were chosen because they allow the placement of different types of material with one piece of equipment. Also, if changes in terrain conditions were suddenly to occur, the equipment could quickly be teared down, moved and setup again elsewhere.


Used Putzmeister Katt-kretter pump

Putzmeister Katt-kretter pump

In addition to the 6 Telebelt TB 130 telescopic belt conveyors, Putzmeister America and its Special Applications Business group (SAB) supplied Thom-Katt trailer pumps and boom pumps for a complete pumping solution-based approach.


To complete the third Set of locks:
– 39,238 cubic yards were excavated.
– 4,486 cubic yards of reinforced concrete were poured.
– 260 tons of reinforced bars were used.
– 1,060 ton on cement was placed.

With over 47 years of experience in the construction industry, United Equipment Sales has advised on several international large projects similar to the Panama Canal and is always available to help you find the best deal on pumping equipment (pumps, hose and accessories) and aerial lifts. Give us a call!