Busting 3 myths about ICF construction

| by David Morris
Busting 3 myths about ICF construction

Insulated concrete forms are one of the fastest growing construction methods in the country. But there are still some misconceptions about this proven method.

Here's a look at three aspects of the real ICF story:

Concept

Insulated concrete forms (ICFs) are cast-in-place concrete walls that are sandwiched between two layers of insulation material, usually expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam insulation forms. The foam blocks are stacked as interlocking blocks, kind of like toy building blocks, but they're connected with steel reinforcing rods. They offer well-insulated, airtight, energy-efficient building enclosures. Also, ICFs are a great fit for regions prone to severe weather because of their strong impact resistance.

The foam blocks are left in place to provide insulation throughout the life of the home. The blocks contain plastic webbing that serves as studs for interior and exterior finishing. Plumbing and electrical chases can be designed in before the concrete is poured, and the foam can be routed to add electrical wiring if necessary.

 Any traditional finish from wood to brick to siding can be applied to interior and exterior faces. From the outside, an ICF home can display any architectural style so there's really no way to tell from the curb that a home was built with ICFs

Cost

After several studies of ICF construction costs, The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development determined that using ICF wall construction generally adds about 3 to 5 percent to the total purchase price of a typical wood-frame home and land (about 5 to 10 percent of the house construction cost).

That means the added cost is about $2 to $4 per square foot of the floor area of a typical home. But it's important to look at the overall cost of ownership.

Construction represents only 15 to 20 percent of a family’s cost of owning a house over the next 20 years. Other things like maintenance, insurance and energy consumption dwarf the construction cost over the next 20 years."

The slight additional first cost of ICF construction should be weighed against longer-term benefits of lower energy costs, durability and comfort.

Complexity

It's helpful to work with an architect or contractor familiar with designing a home for ICFs. Because a home is made up of several systems, changes in one area can result in deviations from traditional wood-frame building practices. For instance, in an ICF home the HVAC unit will likely be smaller than one in a wood-framed home of the same square footage. That's one of the ways that costs can be offset.

Also, it's important to factor in the wall thickness, which could result in slightly higher trim costs for window and door installation, as well as indirect cost impacts to plumbing, HVAC and electrical installations.

ICFs are no longer an exotic building strategy. Today, it's a proven method for creating a high performing durable home.


Topics: Building Green, Insulated Concrete Forms - ICF

Companies: Fox Blocks



David Morris
A Detroit native, David T. Morris, LEED® Green Associate, used his drive for entrepreneurship, innovation & new product development to develop a patented product and later took a new building product to market. In 2012, he became U.S. East Regional Manager with Fox Blocks, a division of Airlite Plastics Company, managing ICF sales in seven states. Since 2006, David has delivered more than 140 IFA/ICF training seminars to contractors, plus another 120 presentations to architects and engineers. He is a featured speaker and SME on High-Performance Buildings, and his efforts have resulted in environmentally friendly construction being specified for residential, commercial, and institutional buildings throughout the country.

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