Insulated Concrete Forms:
A Green building Technology that Offers Energy Savings and Fire and Storm Resistance
© 2009 by Kelly Smith all rights reserved; content may not be copied, rewritten, or republished without authors written permission
is rising in popularity exponentially. Owners of existing construction are leaning that way during
kitchen remodeling projects and bathroom updates. What about new home construction?
For anyone securing a construction loan for new home, this is a shining opportunity to build green
while tightening the screws on ballooning energy bills. And that is where framing the homes envelope with
insulated concrete forms (ICFs) enters the picture.
A Look at Green Building Alternatives
It goes without saying that
framing with SIPs
(Structural Insulated Panels) are a green way to
construct a home that has a virtually air-tight envelope. This is what makes it energy efficient
to the nth degree.
There is virtually no air flow from the outside finish to the interior through the walls, due to the
assembly method. Also, the insulating materials that are sandwiched between the OSB (Oriented Strand Board)
yield high-efficiency radiant energy insulating qualities.
In a similar fashion, ICFs (Insulated Concrete Forms) deliver similar energy efficiency. Interested?
Sustainable building design and construction with ICFs can add up to 26 points toward LEED (Leadership
in Energy and Environmental Design) certification on a residence or commercial building.
The LEED process is similar in nature to Energy Star Certification. Not only is meeting the score
in energy conservation on reducing energy bills important, its a huge investment in your home equity.
How are ICFs Constructed?
The term ICF is self-explanatory: they are insulated concrete forms. They begin with a hollow foam
block made of Styrofoam (otherwise known as expanded polystyrene or EPS).
The hollow space between the Styrofoam is the container for the wet concrete mix that will eventually
form the structures walls. Its important to consider the
homeowners insurance benefits of concrete wall construction.
Residential architects use construction software to engineer the individual blocks that make up the
residence. From this process emerges the blueprints with the design specified so that a minimum of
job site cutting and modification will have to be done.
The sizes are standardized as 12, 16, or 24 tall. The foam sides are usually
specified as 2 to 2 3/4 thick, depending on the insulating R-value needed.
When the architect is done with the design, the ICF manufacturing facility builds them and ships
them to the building site. At that point, the
may utilize construction project
management software, depending on the size of the construction project.
As with tilt-form construction used on large commercial projects like malls, exterior walls are commonly
carefully plumbed and then braced while the concrete is poured and is curing.
After the concrete walls have cured sufficiently, the bar joists or trusses are added. These ensure that
the walls remain sturdy and plumb while the temporary bracing is removed from the walls.
How to Finish the Exterior Walls
Just as with
residential wood framing, there are a vast range of choices for finishing the outside
walls. In many cases, commercial structures like strip centers are finished with an acrylic stucco
This finish is troweled on over Styrofoam attached to sheathing and structural grade metal studs.
But when ICF block technology is used, the foam insulation is already in place! Saving steps saves
money, bottom line.
On residential buildings,
wood and aluminum siding are typically used, although Acme brick veneer is
also popular. The home is now extremely energy efficient due to the fact that theres an
encapsulated interior and exterior layer of insulating foam.
Specific Benefits of ICFs
- Easy to build radius walls, which are problematic with conventional wood framing.
- Concrete is very strong structurally, so ICFs are a natural choice for locations that are
susceptible to wildfires, hurricanes, and tornadoes.
- Theyre quick and efficient up to get up out of the ground and dried in because of the
linear and streamlined construction process, from drawing board to house-warming party.
- Excellent insulating qualities providing up to an R-25 efficiency rating.
- Virtually no job site cutting or modifications, which minimizes waste and saves money. Less
scrap trucked to the landfill means points towards LEED certification. ICFs are
a green building practice!
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