Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Thermo-Con Cellular Concrete


In the 1950s, the New Orleans-based Higgins Incorporated advertised its patented Thermo-Con Cellular Concrete System. Higgins touted its concrete as an admixture of Portland Cement, water, and "three chemicals" (actually aluminum flake, caustic soda, and bituminous emulsion). The company's advertising department took pains to communicate the product's heat-shielding properties (demonstrated by image above) and to distinguish its approach from any correlation to prefabrication:

The Thermo-Con cellular concrete system is in no way a pre-fabricated construction method. The forms are designed on a one-foot modular principle and can be arranged to fit any desired plan for a home or commercial building. Any architectural style may be chosen and interior space arranged to suit individual needs.

In 1949, New Orleans architects Sporl and Maxwell (Edward Sporl and Murvan "Scotty" Maxwell) designed a luxury Thermo-Con house (images above) for company founder Andrew Higgins (1886-1952). The Southeastern Architectural Archive retains construction drawings for the Higgins House in its Maxwell and LeBreton Office Records Collection. See photographic images on Regional Modernism's flickr set here. See and read about another Thermo-Con house here. The Thermo-Con Lakemoore Apartment Complex (1950), built in suburban Atlanta by businessman Wiley Lemuel Moore , was ultimately converted to a condo colony, the earliest condominium conversion in the city (1969). The buildings are still standing with some minor alterations to the exteriors.

After World War II, Andrew Higgins had originally hoped to develop "Thermo-Namel" homes, prefabricated structures made of enamel-coated steel. A national steel shortage forced the entrepreneur to postpone Thermo-Namel and develop Thermo-Con instead. He claimed that his new concrete foaming agent could expand a Portland cement and water mixture by 40%, and would result in a lightweight cellular concrete " 'of great insulation value and high tensile strength.'"(1)


Documents related to Higgins Industries and Higgins Resources reside in the Vertical Files of Tulane University's Louisiana Research Collection (LaRC) and in the University of New Orleans' Earl K. Long Library.

(1)"No Steel, Higgins Halts on Housing."
The Times-Picayune 5 August 1947: p. 1 as it appears in the database America's Historical Newspapers.

Images above from Higgins Inc. Booklet No. 72, SEAA Trade Catalogs Collection.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

What affects does a thermo cellular concrete do for the home and is it safe? After reading the article it's something that has my attention. Mainly because of the home that I'm wanting to build and would like to use a different form of concrete.

Keli Rylance said...

You might want to contact someone living in one. There are a number of the residences in New Orleans, an apartment complex in Atlanta.

There are many other types of cellular concrete out there these days.. you might also want to take a look at AAC---Autoclaved Aerated Concrete.

http://www.yourhome.gov.au/materials/autoclaved-aerated-concrete