ICFs Score Well in Life Cycle Analysis

| by David Morris
ICFs Score Well in Life Cycle Analysis

Which do you think costs more: constructing a building or operating it? For both residential and commercial construction, the answer is operating the building.

Research shows the larger environmental impacts in a life cycle assessment (LCA) are from the production and use of energy for heating and cooling. Interestingly, operating energy outweighs initial embodied energy within the first 10 years of a building’s life.

One way to significantly reduce those life cycle costs is to build with insulated concrete forms. Researchers at MIT looked at the life cycle costs for both residential and commercial buildings and found that ICFs can deliver significant operating cost savings. and found that ICFs can deliver significant operating cost savings.


Homes constructed with ICFs benefit from higher R-value and lower thermal bridging that deliver energy savings in heating, cooling, and ventilation compared to conventional wood-framed construction. ICFs can offer operational energy savings of 20 percent or more compared to code compliant wood-framed buildings in a cold climate such as Chicago.

The energy savings can compensate for the initial carbon emissions of the concrete within a few years of operation. More than 90% of the life cycle carbon emissions are due to the operation phase, with construction and end-of-life disposal accounting for less than 10% of the total emissions.


The MIT research found that in the first year added thermal mass in conventional office buildings due to the use of concrete construction over steel construction provided annual energy savings in heating, cooling, and ventilation (HVAC) of 6% in Phoenix and 5% in Chicago, which can accumulate to provide carbon savings throughout the life cycle.

There may be even greater opportunities to activate the thermal mass of concrete in buildings, such as radiant floor systems and passive technologies, which can further reduce HVAC energy requirements.

Overall, it's clear that the increased use of concrete envelope systems and the development of low-carbon structural concrete can have help lower the life cycle carbon emissions of residential and commercial buildings.

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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