High Performance Homes Don't Have to Cost More

Aug. 10, 2017 | by David Morris

Smart builders can make trade offs to offer resilient, energy efficient ICF homes that don't have to cost more than a comparable stick built home.

Insulated concrete forms (ICFs) are double insulated reinforced concrete walls using expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam insulation forms. The foam blocks are stacked as interlocking blocks, connected with steel reinforcing rebar. They offer well-insulated, airtight, quiet, energy-efficient building enclosures. Also, ICFs are a great fit for regions prone to severe weather because of their strong impact resistance.

While it's difficult to provide specific cost comparisons due to regional differences in building supplies and contractor knowledge, ICF construction is very price competitive when you look at the total thru wall cost for a wall assembly. as well as the whole home. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development studied ICF construction in its report "COSTS AND BENEFITS OF INSULATING CONCRETE FORMS FOR RESIDENTIAL CONSTRUCTION." After several studies of ICF construction costs, HUD 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).

In other words, the added cost is about $2 to $4 per square foot of the floor area of a typical home. For a typical 2,500 square-foot, two-story home and lot (sale price of $180,000), the additional cost amounts to about $7,000. The additional first cost of ICF construction should be weighed against longer-term benefits, the report said. 

These homes don't have to cost more overall, but you can shift costs to get the results you want. Because ICF houses are more energy-efficient, the heating and cooling equipment can be smaller than in a frame house. This can cut the cost of the final house by an estimated $.75 per square foot. So the net extra cost is about $.25-$3.25, according to the EPS Industry Alliance, a concrete forms trade organization. Additional costs may come from wall thickness adding costs to window and door installation, as well as indirect cost impacts to plumbing, HVAC and electrical installations.

The EPS-IA says that it's safe to assume that a home will cost about $2.00 more per square foot to build with ICFs on average, and particular architectural features or site issues could have an impact as well.

So before you dismiss the ICF building because you think it may cost more, check with a knowledgeable ICF expert that can help you determine the real costs of building a better home. I'll bet that you'll be pleasantly surprised to find out the yearly heating-cooling savings put you money ahead every year. 

This blog was developed by Fox Blocks. All posts, sponsored and un-sponsored have been reviewed and approved by the Sustainable Community Media Editorial Team to ensure quality, relevance/usefulness and objectivity.


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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