Owners create dream home with ICF walls and foundation (photos)

Owners create dream home with ICF walls and foundation (photos)

Situated in the rolling hills of eastern Virginia, the Lantern Hall home was designed to give the biggest energy-efficiency bang for the buck.

The owners, both engineers, chose insulated concrete forms for the house that will take them into their retirement years. A friend had built an ICF home and was quite happy with it. So Preston and Lynn Simms decided to take the plunge.

The Simms talked with ProudGreenHome.com about their ICF experience.

"We wanted something low maintenance and energy efficient, so we settled on an ICF house," said Preston.

"This is going to be our retirement home so we wanted everything maintenance free, Lynn said. "That made our choice because cement can't rot."

The home also feature metal roofing, brick siding and composite trim that doesn't require painting.

See a slideshow of this amazing green home. 

The Simms worked with David Phelps of ICF Homes of Virginia to develop the Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired design. Phelps specializes in homes built with ICFs, in which foam blocks create a form for poured concrete to shape foundations and walls. The foam stays on the concrete, providing a high level of insulation and air sealing for a high level of energy efficiency.

The house also incorporates passive solar design. It's oriented east and west, with the 1,500 square feet of south-facing two-story windows set to capture the sun's heat. Large overhangs block the heat of the summer sun, but let in light and warmth during the winter months. On the east and west and north sides of the house high windows work with the overhangs to manage light and heat.

The 10,300 square-foot home incorporated 1.5 million lbs. on concrete. The basement walls are 13 inches thick with an 8-inch concrete core and the first floor walls are 11 inches thick with a 6-inch concrete core. The basement and first floor floors are concrete as well. There's more than 4.5 miles of rebar in the home.

Due to the insulation and tight building envelope of an ICF home, the house has a Home Energy Rating System (HERS) index of 44. A standard code built new home has an index of 100. So this home is about 60 percent more energy efficient than a standard new home.

The air tightness of the building envelope came to light during the blower door test. This home performed one air exchange per hour, Preston said. An Energy Star rated home will have three air exchanges per hour, and a standard code-built home will perform at seven to eight exchanges per hour.

During recent cool evenings, the Simms turned off the radiant floor heating and operated only the heat pump for warmth. During that time the electric bill for the whole house was $45. During the depths of the winter, the cost to heat the home with the propane-fueled efficient boiler was about $300 per month, Preston said.

"We have noticed the winter sun would keep the house an even temperature, and the heating bills are the same for a house about half that size," Lynn said.

Additional green components include:

  • Radiant Hot Water Floors
  • High Efficiency Condensing Boiler
  • 200,000 BTU – 98% efficient
  • Instant Hot Water
  • 20 SEER Heat Pump – 4 Tons
  • Energy Recover Ventilator
  • Conditioned Attic Chase for HVAC
  • Dual Compressor – Operates on 2 tons or 4 tons when needed.
  •  20 SEER Heat Pump – 4 Tons
  •   Energy Recover Ventilator
  • Passive Solar Heating Design
  • 1,500 Sq. Ft. South Facing Windows
  • Pella Triple Pane Windows
  • 4 Ft. Soffit Overhang
  • Concrete First Floor (Thermal Storage) 
  • Rain Harvesting System
  • French Drain circling entire house collecting all runoff
  • Limited use of gutters
  • R50 Attic Insulation: Blown in Cellulose

Read more about insulated concrete forms.

Topics: Building Green, Foundations, GREAT GREEN HOMES, Home Design & Plans, Insulated Concrete Forms - ICF

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