Designs on the future

Retail center project invests in unique building forms

It’s a muddy and cold day in Battle Ground, and a man in worn rain gear and rubber boots walks a quiet construction site under gray skies, making sure corners aren’t out of square on curious walls made of concrete and Styrofoam.

He should know how the walls need to look, because he designed them. Dennis Pavlina is an architect and the president of the Vancouver-based architectural and development firm The Gold Medal Group.

Putting houses in a neighborhood

Battle Ground Village is an idea that Pavlina said evolved from the original 20-acre residential development just next door. He figured while he was putting houses there, he might see if he could develop the area further.

"In Clark County, there are very few contiguous pieces of land that allow you to build this way," he said of the property just south of Southwest Main Street, at 199th Street and Commerce Avenue.

When Pavlina learned he had permission to build there, and in light of the fact that Battle Ground has tripled its population in the past 10 years and is expected to grow by 15 percent over the next three, he spent a year and nearly $5 million running power and sewer to the site.

"Battle Ground is a good capture for retail shoppers," he said, citing not just the city, but the entire North County as a place rich in consumer potential.

Once completely built out over the next ten years, the project will be the first of its kind for the area – a 205,000-square-foot retail and corporate center Pavlina describes as "an attempt to bring an urban environment to Battle Ground."

In this attempt, Pavlina designed a center with town-square-style open areas and buildings that move beyond the strip mall look.

"The site is meant to give identity to the tenants," he said. "Each unit is special in its own way."

Pavlina hopes the investment will create a town center for growing Battle Ground. To this end, he designed a bit more than a vehicle for retailers to set up shop. The village will feature a central park pavilion, a children’s nature park and an urban trail system as well as a man-made lake and picnic area. Also, plans are in place to move the Battle Ground Regional Library to the site. When all the dust settles, Pavlina expects to have spent close to $200 million on the development.

Artists’ renderings of Battle Ground Village depict attractive brick buildings of different colors with large windows and balconies, and each unit is unique.

Building blocks

But more than cosmetic, the project appeals to the energy-conscious with the most unique, but hidden design feature – the concrete and Styrofoam walls. Named Insulated Concrete Forms, the foam-concrete sandwich design provides better insulation from extreme temperatures, and interconnect a bit like Lego-brand toys. Pavlina went with Utah-based Commercial Block for his ICF product, but several companies offer similar systems. To build with such materials, workers use the interlocking Styrofoam casts as the container, and then pour concrete in the center. The result is an integrity of form and an easily-made weather barrier throughout the structure. It’s not cheap to go with such walls; ICF costs a whopping 20 percent more than the more common concrete tilt-up. Such an investment shows Pavlina’s confidence in the area as a retail center.

"It’s top shelf," he said. "We wanted to build something that would give value to our tenants for years to come."

Catalyzing the city

Beyond the walls, Pavlina’s enterprise is on track to enhance an already growing area, and city leaders are exited at the prospect.

"We’re thrilled that Battle Ground Village is coming in," said Battle Ground Chamber of Commerce Director Diane Rivera. "We’re exited about the amenities it will bring. In fact, I drive through (the construction site) regularly to check in on how its going."

According to Rivera, the project will generate a 48 percent increase in sales activity for the city, to the tune of nearly $123 million.

Also, about 450 new jobs will be created by the completed project, and Battle Ground should see a tax increase of a little over $6 million, she said. "We’re all really growing cohesively and together. It’s an exciting time."

ICF 101

An enterprising Canadian conceived of what are now called insulated concrete forms. On March 22, 1966, Canadian Werner Gregori submitted a patent application for a product called expanded polystyrene foam form, and on Oct. 24, 1968, was awarded the rights to the idea. He went on to win patent rights for the product in several European countries.

Today, ICF sales are growing due to the popularity of alternative and energy efficient construction methods; buildings with ICF walls are 30 percent more energy efficient than those built with conventional methods. Also, ICF-built structures are a lot quieter.

Many variations on the theme have emerged since 1968. In 1983, father and son team Stanley and Rick Johnson developed a concrete block infused with polystyrene insulation – a product widely used today. But the cast wall method remains the most popular product. There are nearly 40 companies in the United States alone manufacturing ICF systems for the construction industry.

A bomb-proof design

It may have been a Canadian who conceived of ICF, but the British know how to advertise it. A United Kingdom-based company called PolySteel UK declares on its website that ICF walls have been tested to withstand a blast force equal to 50 pounds of TNT, and fared best of all other construction methods in a four-hour fire test. Further, the company makes sure to mention that the Allied headquarters in war-ravaged Afghanistan is built of Insulated Concrete Forms.

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