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It's Building Season

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Contractor offers energy efficient housing option

    People think of winter in a lot of different ways, but in this little corner of the world, they rarely think of it as building season. That’s changed now, however, since Terry Williams came to town and introduced to the folks of this area a new kind of building—with Styrofoam. And amongst all the special qualities this versatile material offers to builders, it offers one little extra—the ability to build quickly, even in the wintertime. In fact, the house shown in the photo below is just 18 days into construction, during a month that included below freezing temperatures, significant snowfalls and, not quite as common here in January, a lot of rain.

    According to Williams, one of the main advantages to the Styrofoam blocks is energy efficiency– walls made of these blocks, reinforced with rebar and filled with concrete, offer an R value of 50 as compared to traditional walls, which offer an R19. That kind of insulating ability not only keeps out cold air, it makes the house cooler in the summer and helps to keep out sound.

    A secondary advantage to this construction technique is speed. “I built this house with a totally green crew,” Williams said, and we’re putting the roof paper on 18½ days into the project.”

    It’s not surprising that Williams has become a proponent of this building technique—in his over four decades of experience in construction, he’s done just about everything with just about every material.

    Born and raised in Hermiston, Williams headed west, at least as far as Corvallis, when he was 17. He worked at a plywood mill, drove a tractor and, on weekends, helped one of his older brothers building houses. “I’ve always been a workaholic,” he laughed, and a quick look at his resume, which would fill several large pages, suggests that ‘workaholic’ might be an understatement.

    Williams was working building trusses and he decided “the system just wasn’t quite right.” When the regional manager came to town, “I told him my ideas.” And Williams was offered a job with Bostich.

    Their Montana area was open, so Williams headed back east, but he ended up joining the carpenter’s union instead and working in Butte. “God, what a hellhole!” he laughed. But the work there enabled him to buy 25 acres and “build a house” in Phillipsburg and, for a while, Williams was a Montana boy.

    “I was the general foreman on the Federal Building in Helena,” he said but Williams, as is his wont, came to the attention of the men in the white hats and, “I was promoted to project manager. It was a seven-story building, a block square. I’d never done a job that big and I didn’t think I could do it. But I was cocky and young and full of bull,” so Williams got the job. And completed it.

    After that, he began his own business. Looking back he says, “August/September is not really a good time to start a business, especially in a little town of only 1000 people. My wife, at times, thought I was out of my mind,” he laughed. “But I was tired of traveling, tired of following the work.”

    He spent the next three years “doing remodels, roofs and additions,” and, by the age of 12, “my oldest boy could roof a house.” The business went well, and soon Williams was building Montana homesteads with a crew of 8 or 9 guys. “On one day I had seven jobs going,” he said, and that was the end of working for himself.

    Williams’ next stint was south, when the oil fields were gushing in Texas and Oklahoma. It was his first time in the “big” city. “Houston is a city 80 miles in diameter,” he said. “I must have spent $100 in quarters calling my sister, trying to figure out how to get where I was going.” Williams ended up working on an oil rig, a complete story in itself, but building was calling him. Soon, he was back in Corvallis.

    Not only was he building houses again, but Williams was keeping up with his workaholic reputation as vice-President and then President of the Homebuilder’s Association. “It was a lot of work, but it was really rewarding and the other builders were appreciative.”

    The only cloud on his horizon, however, was Oregon’s restrictive zoning laws. “It’s overly regulated,” he said. “In Oregon, it’s hard to be in the building business. It ends up costing $25,000 a year just to be licensed.”

    It was a friend who shared his hobby, the Rocky Mountain Saddle Horse, who introduced him to Sandpoint and Williams was on the road again. He arrived here in May with his wife, also Terrie, and two adopted sons. Oh, and a load of Styrofoam.

    Not that it’s just any packing material. The product Williams is working with now is a high-density product created especially for the building trade.  In fact, it should be called by its proper name—the Arxx High Performance Wallsystem. And when you combine this interlocking, lightweight, expanded polystyrene foam with a workaholic like Terry Williams, you get a lot more than just a well-insulated house. You get one built, even in the middle of winter, in record breaking time.

 

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Landon Otis

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