Nowadays many home owners, architects, and builders looking materials for constructing homes that are energy efficient, strong, healthy and green. They may be surprised to learn that such a material already exists, and can be used for floors, walls, and outdoor use such as decking. This wonder material is ICF or insulated concrete forms, and it has been around for over sixty years. ICF concrete is durable, breathable, and fire, moisture, and termite proof. In addition, it costs less than most other commonly used building materials. All of these factors make it a suitable material for home construction.
What is ICF?
The first ICF was made of foam and was built in 1966 by Canadian contractor Werner Gregori. ICF blocks have been used in the developed world for sixty years, though foam has been largely replaced by other insulating materials. ICF or insulated concrete forms refers to a frame or form for reinforced concrete. It is made of thermally insulated materials and can be used for building walls, floors and outdoor surfaces. Because it provides insulation, thereby reducing energy consumption, ICF is considered an environmentally friendly material.
It is used in certified LEED and green building design since structures made from ICF have better energy efficiency. Because of its insulating properties, the use of ICF in home construction can reduce home heating and cooling costs by as much as 20 to 25%, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Using ICF for home construction
There are many advantages to using ICF instead of concrete fro home construction. It make buildings more energy efficient, and that’s an important part of the story. But it does much more. It’s also stronger than concrete, it costs less, and can withstand all kinds of weather. Some of the qualities that make ICF suitable for construction are:
- Moisture resistant
- Durable and impact resistant
- Termite proof
In addition, being a breathable material, it makes building interiors more healthy by preventing the growth of mold. For builders and architects, ICF has the further advantages of being lightweight and easy to cut. It is easy to finish and can be used for winter construction as well.
How does ICF compare to other building materials?
ICF has a number of advantages over other commonly used building materials. It is much stronger, and buildings that use ICF products are typically six to nine times stronger. It is impact resistant and ICF buildings can withstand all kinds of bad weather conditions, including hurricane force winds at speeds up to 402 km/hour. That makes homes constructed with ICF better able to survive natural disasters.
With all of these advantages, ICF concrete also costs less than other building materials. This can be a major factor in an industry where costs typically outrun initial estimates significantly. Overall, it can reduce the cost of a building by as much as $0.75 per square foot.
With many advantages over other building materials, ICF concrete is a suitable material for home construction. It finds many applications in the new and growing fields of LEED and green design.