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Introduction to Insulated Concrete Form Construction

If you’d like to live in a green energyefficient home but think it’s too expensive,
think again.












Today homebuilders can use surprisingly
affordable building technology that offers
significant benefits in energy efficiency,
safety and home comfort for little to no cost
difference compared to traditional building
Leading the way is the insulated concrete
form, or ICF which can be used in both
below-grade and above-grade applications
for homes. An ICF is basically a form for
poured reinforced concrete walls that stay in
place as a permanent part of the wall

The forms, made of expanded polystyrene
(EPS) foam insulation, are either preassembled interlocking blocks or knockdown panels connected with plastic ties. The
stay -in-place forms not only provide
continuous insulation and sound barrier, but
also a solid backing with a continuous
fastening stud for drywall on the inside, and
lap siding, EIFS, stucco, or brick and stone
on the outside.
There is amazing design and building
flexibility in using ICFs, including radius
curves that are difficult and expensive to pull
off with other types of building materials. An
ICF home can be finished in any style, from
traditional to modern, unlimited choices to
meet the desires of current home owners.
Building a home with ICFs offers
tremendous advantages over other types of
building, such as traditional stick-built 2×4 or
2×6 wood-framing or structural insulated
panels. Given energy savings over the life of
the home, ICF construction can provide an
overall lower cost of ownership and a
significant reduction in sound and noise.
The EPS Industry Alliances estimates that
experienced crews can build an ICF home
that costs .5 percent to 4 percent more than a
wood-frame home. But there are offsetting
factors such as quicker building time and
smaller heating and cooling equipment, as
well as lower energy bills that make ICF a
choice that offers a high level of value.
This white paper, sponsored by Fox Blocks
ICF Wall Systems, examines some of the key
benefits of ICF construction, including:
· Energy efficiency
· Safety
· Home comfort and outside noise
Read on as we answer some basic questions
about ICF construction and how it can
transform your lifestyle in your new home.
Why should a homeowner choose ICF?
Homeowners, architects, contractors, and
others involved in building homes are
becoming more aware of the advantages of
building with ICFs. Here’s a look at a just a
Energy efficiency: The mass of the concrete
helps maintain the temperature longer, and
the foam form surrounding the concrete
insulates the home from temperature swings.
According to the Insulating Concrete Form
Association, houses built with ICF exterior
walls require an estimated 44 percent less
energy to heat and 32 percent less energy to
cool than comparable frame houses. A
typical 2000 square-foot home in the center
of the U.S. will save approximately $200 in
heating costs each year and $65 in air
conditioning each year.
The greater insulation, tighter construction,
and temperature-smoothing mass of the walls
conserve heating and cooling energy much
better than conventional wood-frame walls.
Results will vary depending on the home’s
location of course. In colder regions of the
U.S. and Canada, heating savings will be
higher and cooling savings lower. In hotter
areas, heating savings will be less and
cooling savings more. Also, larger houses
tend to save more than smaller houses.
Because the home is so energy efficiency,
smaller heating and cooling units can be
used, downsizing HVAC units reduce
construction costs.
Even in below-grade only applications, ICF
basements and crawl spaces offer energyefficiency benefits compared to standard
concrete forms or other types of construction.
Strength: If you’re thinking of building a
home in an area prone to tornados,
hurricanes, earthquakes or forest fires, take a
look at what ICF construction has to offer.
Multiple tests show that ICF walls will stand
up to wind, earthquakes and fire better than
many alternatives.
In a high wind situation, damage from flying
debris is the greatest threat facing
homeowners. The Wind Engineering
Research Center at Texas Tech University
tested different types of home construction in
simulated tornado and hurricane conditions.
They shot a 2×4 wood stud at 100 mph at
various types of walls. The ICF wall was the
only type to repel the intrusion from the
flying piece of lumber. The ICF walls stood
up under winds that twisted and tore other
walls to pieces.
Types of ICFs
Insulated concrete forms are available
in a variety of products to suit various
building applications:
· Blocks – fully assembled
· Panels – knockdown
In a simulated earthquake, the ICF walls
resisted a maximum lateral load six to eight
times the maximum loads resisted by the
frame wall panels.
In a wildfire situation, experience shows that
concrete structures are more likely to remain
standing through fire than are structures of
other materials. Unlike wood, concrete does
not burn. Unlike steel, it does not soften and
bend. Concrete does not break down until it
is exposed to thousands of degrees
Fahrenheit—far more than is present in the
typical house fire.
The strength and durability of concrete walls
formed with ICFs offer unmatched resistance
the external threats that face many
homeowners today.
Home comfort: Building a home with a wall
made of a concrete and 2 5/8”solid EPS
insulation on the inside and outside creating
a high performance wall making a house
more comfortable and quiet than ordinary
wood frame walls.
The ICF wall pairs a solid strong material
(concrete) with a light insulating one (EPS
foam) which sharply cuts fluctuations in
temperature, air infiltration, and noise.
The continuous layer of foam insulation
along the ICF wall helps keep the
temperature the same everywhere. It virtually
eliminates drafts or cold spots that can occur
in frame walls along the studs or at gaps in
the insulation.
The heavy concrete of the ICF wall gives it
the heat-absorbing property of “thermal
mass.” This evens out swings in temperature
over time. So the house does not tend to
overheat or get suddenly chilly as the furnace
or air conditioner cycles on and off.
Thanks to the concrete in the walls, the home
is much quieter on the inside. Sounds that
would be loud in a wood-frame home may be
barely audible inside an ICF home. That
mean noise from traffic, airplanes, storms or
construction won’t intrude on the people
living in the home. With an ICF walls, the
interior of the home is sheltered from the
harshness of the outdoors.
If you’re considering a new home, think
about all the ICF has to offer. Homeowners
looking for greater energy efficiency and
comfort, as well as a safer home, should
consider ICF walls for below grade and
above grade applications. ICFs offer an ecofriendly, quiet comfortable home year

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Introduction to Insulated Concrete Form Construction

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