5 reasons to build homes with ICFs

5 reasons to build homes with ICFs

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To build anything well, you need to start with a solid foundation. A home’s foundation provides the strength and integrity of the rest of the building. 

A better foundation helps improve its function.

Foundations can be built of many materials, but one of the most beneficial is insulated concrete forms (ICF). ICF foundations are built of reinforced concrete combined with rigid foam insulation, providing a solid, stable foundation that also creates a tight building envelope, lowering energy bills and provides a more comfortable interior at the same time.

Improved energy efficiency

The combination of rigid foam and concrete means a home with an ICF foundation will help save money on energy bills each year. With a tighter building envelope, there’s less thermal transfer through the exterior walls. This translates into a savings of up to 44 percent on heating bills and 32 percent on cooling in comparison to traditional stick-built homes.

This energy savings comes from the increased R-value of the foam. While a traditional foundation may have an R-value of 9, ICF foundations have an R-value of 17 to 26, making them much more insulating, keeping the energy used to heat and cool the home where it belongs.

Durable and weather-resistant

With the recent natural disasters and hurricanes, people building, rebuilding and retrofitting their homes are looking for materials that are weather-resistant and durable. ICF foundations, made of reinforced concrete, are resistant to even the worst weather. They can easily withstand high winds, rains, hail and even fire without sustaining damage. 

In fact, studies were carried out on ICF walls in comparison to both traditional timber and steel walls. They found that an ICF foundation resists earthquakes and wind speeds of up to 100 miles per hour better than other materials.

And when the foundation is secure, the rest of the home is as well.

Sustainable design

Both homeowners are builders have been putting greater emphasis on building with environmentally friendly materials. ICF allows buildings to qualify for LEED certification, ensuring the home will use less energy while the blocks themselves are made from roughly 60 percent recycled materials. The steel reinforcements within the blocks are made from roughly 99 percent recycled material as well, which means an ICF home will be better for the environment right from its construction and ongoing as well.

Eliminates mold and moisture

A tight building envelope is an important part of having an energy-efficient home. Unfortunately, typical methods of creating that tight envelope, including the use of house wraps, may cause moisture to become trapped inside the walls. This happens when the home is unable to “breathe” properly, allowing moisture to build up, rather than to evaporate and escape the home. 

Over time, this moisture buildup can encourage the growth of mold and mildew inside the walls of the home.

ICF foundations are able to provide that tight building envelope, without the buildup of moisture. This leads to a healthier home with better indoor air quality.

Low maintenance foundation

Traditional stick-built homes require a lot of regular maintenance and repair. They can develop issues with moisture, mold and wood rot. They can settle, crack and become damaged due to winds, storms and earthquakes. Maintaining these homes takes a lot of time and money, and many issues aren’t discovered right away, which means they have the chance to grow and become bigger problems over time.

ICF foundations are far more durable and low maintenance. The reinforced concrete can withstand high winds, earthquakes, and other disasters without becoming compromised. So, normal day to day wear won’t affect the foundation either. This means that the foundation will last longer, with fewer repairs or maintenance, resulting in lower costs to the homeowner.

By Matt Lee, Innovative Building Materials. Lee is a green design and digital marketing expert. Innovative Building Materials is a website that covers various construction topics and design concepts with a focus on sustainable and stylish building materials.

Topics: Exteriors, Going Green, GREAT GREEN HOMES, Healthy Homes, Heating & Cooling, Home Design & Plans, Insulated Concrete Forms - ICF, Insulation, Sustainable Communities, Sustainable Products, Thermal Envelope

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