What are insulated concrete forms?
Insulated Concrete Forms (ICFs) are hollow blocks or panels composed of expanded polystyrene foam that is stacked up into the shape of the exterior walls of a home or building.
After adding reinforcing steel and filling the gap between the two layers of foam with concrete, the wall cures and hardens. ICF construction is essentially a styrofoam and concrete sandwich which is put together like a set of Legos on a building site.
The foam form stays in place permanently and acts as the thermal and acoustic insulation for the building. It is also used as space to run electrical wiring and plumbing pipes, and as backing for drywall boards on the inside, and stucco, brick, or siding on the outside.
This combination of concrete, steel, and styrofoam create a wall with an unusually good blend of desirable properties like insulation, air tightness, strength, sound attenuation, and mass. It offers both home buyers and home builders, a superior alternative to wood frame walls.
Benefits of ICF Construction
Building a custom home? You should do it with Insulated Concrete Form – ICF construction. Here are nine reasons why:
1. Energy Efficiency of ICF Construction
By keeping cold air outside, ICF walls significantly reduce the energy required to keep you home warm.
ConcreteNetwork.com, claims that homes built with insulated concrete forms require about 44% less energy to heat and 32% less energy to cool than a comparable wood-frame home. This was based on a study of 58 single-family homes located throughout theU.S. and Canada.
Because of the above, concrete house allows for the installation of smaller heating and cooling equipment, saving approx. 20% on the cost of the same.
2. Strength of ICF Construction
An ICF structure can withstand extreme weather conditions, providing you safe living space.
According to experiments performed at Texas Tech University, concrete walls were much less likely to undergo damage in powerful winds than conventional wood framed homes.
During a severe weather event, the most critical factor for increasing the chances of a building’s survival is a protection of all the openings to the outside.
These results imply that when subjected to lateral in-plane loading from causes such as winds or earthquakes, the ICF walls are not only a great deal stronger but also much stiffer than the wood framed wall panels. The higher strength of ICF walls enables concrete homes to resist winds and earthquakes of much greater magnitudes.
ICF walls have up to nine times more axial load stability than a standard wood-framed wall. Reinforced concrete construction offers enhanced protection for your home, especially in high-wind areas, and during tornadoes and hurricanes
Insects, mold, mildew and loudly slammed doors won’t harm the ICF walls in your home.
The materials, styrofoam, and concrete, that make up ICF construction will typically experience little or no degradation in the life of a building, and ICF’s rated durability is excellent.
The inorganic nature of the materials means that they do not support mould growth. In a properly constructed ICF home, there should be no points of entry for moisture to the skeletal elements, and the foam insulation is immune to moisture.
4. Peace & Quiet
An excellent insulator, ICF construction significantly mutes outside noise. If you’re building a house, you will not find a building material that offers better sound proofing.
Concrete is a matter that tends to reflect sound while foam insulation absorbs noise. The blend of foam and concrete creates a thick wall that serves as an excellent sound barrier.
The ICF walls have a high STC rating for a wall assembly, approximately 50 decibels. About one-sixth as much sound gets through an ICF wall assembly, compared with a conventional frame wall. This sharply cuts the noise from outside.
The windows, doors, ceiling insulation, roof, and orientation to the sound source all play significant roles in reducing noise from the neighbors. ICF homes do feel quiet when relating to the wood frame wall, but ICF alone will not knock out all of the exterior sounds.
5. Comfort of ICF Construction
ICF construction enables even temperature distribution across your home.
People who live in ICF houses say the lack of cold drafts and undesired noise are the greatest pluses, even beating the energy-saving benefits. Homes built with insulated concrete forms have more even air temperatures and are far less drafty. The obstacle formed by the foam-and-concrete sandwich cuts air infiltration by as much as 75% when compared with a classic frame house.
Because varying temperatures are a leading source of discomfort for homeowners, ICF makes for a very comfortable home.
6. Cleaner Air
By preventing draft, ICF construction prevents airborne contaminants. The cleaner air means significantly fewer allergens and dust.
ICF walls contain no organic material so that they won’t support the growth of mold, mildew, and other likely harmful microorganisms. They also decrease the infiltration of air that can bring in outside allergens.
The polystyrene foam used in ICF walls is quite non-toxic and does not contain any fiberglass, asbestos, and formaldehyde. In tests of the indoor air quality in ICF homes, no toxic emissions were detected. In areas where radon is a concern, ICF foundation walls help to minimize the leakage of radon gas into homes.
7. Environmentally Friendly
Building a house in Ontario with ICF reduces construction waste. This is not only less hassle for you, but better for the environment.
A year-long study from MIT determined that homes erected with insulated concrete forms were stronger and more energy efficient than traditional wood frame houses and would have a lower carbon footprint over the lifetime of a home.
8. Fire Resistant & Retardant
An ICF wall can resist fire for as long as 4 hours. And when it does start burning, the smoke is much less toxic as compared to smoke from a burning wooden wall.
ICF walls provide excellent fire resistance. ICFs can prevent the spread of fire from one side of a wall to the other, and they are able of withstanding exposure to intense flame longer than traditional wood frame walls.
And unlike wood and steel, concrete walls will not burn or bend during a fire. Also, the foam insulation will not fuel a fire because it is made with flame retardant additives that cause it to melt when exposed to flames. Still, depending on the type of foam used, melting may emit toxic fumes.
9. Lower Insurance Premiums
Some insurance companies offer lower premiums for homes with ICF construction.
Building concrete homes notably reduces possible property damage and loss in the course of disasters like earthquakes, storms, tornadoes, and fire. Premiums during construction may also be reduced.