As housing picks up in North America, a shortage of lumber and building supplies is driving prices up. As the gap between the cost of traditional building materials and insulated concrete forms drops, more and more discerning homeowners are making the switch to ICFs. It’s easy to see why; ICFs offer an abundance of advantages over stick-frame homes and help homeowners to save on insurance costs and utility bills.
Reduces build time
ICFs consist of two polystyrene blocks held together with plastic webs made from recycled materials. The stackable blocks are easy to stack and you can have your walls up in a fraction of the time that it takes to construct conventional structures. Rebar is fitted into the blocks and held in place by the plastic webs. Rebar provides reinforcement and increases the overall strength of the wall. Once the walls have been constructed, concrete is poured into the center of the polystyrene blocks. Drywall and siding (or other wall finishes) can be added to complete the process.
Saves on utilities
ICFs provide an exceptionally tight building envelope that helps to reduce your energy consumption by 30-50%. Thicker concrete walls are excellent at insulation and act as a thermal mass. This means that they absorb heat during the day and radiate it back into the home when the temperatures drop at night. This keeps the interior building temperature constant and negates the need for excessive heating and cooling. Thick ICF walls have an R-value of 30 with a much higher performance value.
Since no chemicals, formaldehyde (present in a number of traditional building materials), HCFs and CFCs are utilized during the ICF manufacturing process, off-gassing is reduced and the internal air quality of the home is improved. Reduced construction waste means less material ends up in landfills.
The thick, rebar-reinforced concrete walls of an ICF building are able to withstand fire, floods and high winds. This makes them safer for building occupants and reduces the cost of home insurance. ICF walls provide a 3-hour fire rating which makes them much safer.
ICF construction can contribute as much as 20 points to LEED certification. This accolade not only helps homeowners to significantly reduce the running costs of their homes, but also adds to the property value. A UCLA Institute for the Environment and Sustainability study showed that green certifications like LEED can add an average of 9% to the resale value of homes and that homeowners could charge higher rents for LEED certified properties.
ICFs don’t have the same inherent insect or mold problems that traditional building methods pose. The thicker concrete walls can also provide sound insulation of up to 30% which means that homes can be built in areas close to major roads where properties are cheaper.
The savings over the lifetime of buildings make ICFs an extremely viable proposition. With safer homes, better air quality and higher resale values, ICF homes are becoming a popular choice for the savvy homeowner.