As ICFs continue their explosive growth in the United States and Canada, ICF use is rapidly increasing internationally as well.
“There’s far greater demand [for ICFs] outside of the U.S. and Canada because of the acceptance of concrete construction over wood,” says Frank Bentley, president of Formtech.
American Polysteel is another ICF company with a significant overseas presence. They recently provided forms and training for two pilot homes in a large subdivision in Shanghai, China, and are involved in projects from Great Britain to Afghanistan.
Concrete, EPS molders, and skilled labor are all readily available in most overseas markets.
Europe was frequently mentioned as a hotspot for international growth. Ireland has been especially profitable.Africa and Asia are significant growth markets, too.
When the Cornerstone Assembly of God needed a new church for the congregation in Bethalto, Illinois, they chose ICFs.
The exterior shell of the 54,000 sq. ft. church is 98% ICF, with several sections reaching over 30 feet high without intermediate floors. One section was framed to allow for further expansion.
The buildingwas finished in stages, so the congregation could meet in one wing while the other was still under construction. Even though most of the building was technically “unheated,” the 13-inch-thick ICF walls kept the building warm for construction crews using only the heat from the finished wing. “They heated 36,000 sq. ft. this winter with rooftop HVAC units, and the highest heating bill was $834,” says Allan Anderson, technical consultant on the project. The average for the winter was just over $750.
The ICF walls start directly on the footings, four feet below grade, and rise as high as 33 feet in the gymnasium and sanctuary. “We were able to pour through the cold winter, despite serious wind conditions,” says Randy Bentley, the block installer
Bracing for pours was another challenge. They ended up using a combination of traditional scaffolding and Plumwall bracing to secure the 35-foot freestanding walls. Most of the pours were done in 4 foot lifts, but the sanctuary required a single 14-foot lift. “We had no blowouts, and no problems, even with all the 15 degree angles we hand cut,” says Bentley.
One of the fastest growing trends in the ICF industry is the use of vinyl window bucks. Builders like vinyl because they’re a no-hassle, lightweight, easy-to-assemble product that virtually eliminates callbacks. Customers choose vinyl for the same reasons they choose ICFs. Both are environmentally friendly, termite and mold proof, contain no hazardous chemicals, and will never rot. Vinyl will not sustain a burn, and does not contribute fuel to a fire.
“If they research the technology and choose ICFs, why would anyone put the wood back in?” asks Justin Anderson, founder of Vinyl Technologies, by far the largest manufacturer of vinyl window and door bucks.
Anderson says his V-Buck can be assembled 83% quicker than a similar wooden buck. Each blockout can be built and braced in five to eight minutes.
Audrey Anderson, marketing director at Vinyl Technologies, just finished building her own ICF home in New Mexico, and has first-hand experience with assembly. She averaged about 6 minutes per buck.
An added bonus, said Audrey, is that the bucks are light enough she could place them herself, even the larger ones. V-Buck is available in 16 different widths to fit virtually every ICF on the market. Additionally, round, half round, ellipse, eyebrow, oval and gothic openings are available by special order. General manager Bruce Anderson says, “If there is a window made for the opening, we can match that shape with our block-out. We also fabricate chamfered block-outs for window openings with a wide sill or window seat.”
In addition to Vinyl Technologies, Arxx, ECO-Block, and a handful of others market vinyl bucks.
Ease of use is just one reason builders are choosing vinyl. Whether you choose ICFs for energy-efficiency, durability, or simplicity, vinyl window bucks are a perfect match. » For the full length version, click here
Regardless of the size and shape of your openings, the installation procedure for vinyl window bucks is fairly universal.
1. Place the Order: Figure out the size, number and shapes of your windows. You can place the order through your distributor. Be sure to include any unusual requirements, such as heavy load doors or non-rectangular openings. Your order will arrive as a bundle of 16-foot-long vinyl planks and several boxes of corners, splices, and other parts.
2. Cut to Size: Cut the vinyl to size using a chop saw with a regular crosscut blade. Cutting and assembling the window and door bucks off-site will increase jobsite productivity. The bottom sills of window bucks need a series of 3-inch diameter holes for concrete placement and consolidation.
If you want to avoid the hassle of measuring and cutting vinyl, you can order your bucks as a kit from Vinyl Technologies. They’ll even pre-drill the large holes in the bottom buck if you request it.
3. Assembly: Fasten the pieces together. V-Buck uses corner connectors, which can be tapped into place with a rubber mallet if the fit is tight. Slide the sides into place next, followed by the top. If the window is arched, use variable-angle connectors and screw them firmly into place.
4. Bracing: V-Bucks use a simple corner bracing system that squares the buck at the same time it reinforces them. Additional bracing is usually installed once the window is placed on the wall.
5. Placement: Once the walls have reached the height of the window, lift the bucks into place. Build the sides up to the required height, then finish the top course, trimming as required. Once in place, brace the bucks every 24 inches.
Limitations: “You do have to respect the material,” notes Anderson. “The heat of the concrete curing, combined with the weight of the material, will bow the vinyl if not installed and braced properly… I always tell builders to cut a piece of OSB or plywood the size of the window and make sure that it fits into the buck before the pour.” » For the full length version, click here
Builders and homeowners across the continent are making the switch to ICFs. Here’s why:
A Florida builder started using ICFs after seeing the effects of Hurricane Andrew, combined with a 100% rise in the cost of lumber, He decided on ICFs due to their strength, price stability, energy efficiency, and availability. .
A Cincinnati, Ohio, builder says he can pour practically all winter because the foam forms keep the concrete warm while it cures. If its 20 degrees or warmer, he "doesn’t even give pouring a second thought."
One builder in the Chestertown, Maryland area says he prefers ICFs because they provide smoother scheduling. ICF walls eliminate cavity insulation, exterior sheathing, and house wrap.
The most common reasons for homeowner satisfaction were lack of noise transmission, wide window sills, and improved energy efficiency, which translates to lower utility bills.
A retired couple in Virginia Beach say they appreciate their ICF home more the longer they live in it. They consider their home to be energy efficient, soundly constructed and to have a look of "solidness" to it. The wide window sills contribute to this feeling and provide a nice area for decorating. They also appreciate how quiet it is and believe this feature will provide a marketable benefit during re-sale as the house is in close proximity to a naval air station. Low utility bills and high levels of comfort attest to the energy efficiency of the home.
» For the full length version, click here
In all purchasing decisions, men generally take great pride in negotiating the lowest possible price, while women seek the best value. But women make 80% to 90% of all new home purchase decisions! So “best value” usually trumps “cheapest price.”
Women are concerned with how their home looks; they are interested in style and practicality.
Practicality outside is shown in low maintenance materials. Inside, practicality is visible in abundant, organized storage and flexible spaces. Value-conscious buyers intuitively appreciate maximizing available space under the roof. This often means building out over the garage.
A stylish home should facilitate entertaining. The kitchen is her number one entertaining area; keep it open to other living spaces. Plentiful windows make the home bright and airy.
Eliminating costs which buyers don’t appreciate is equally important. Still, an ICF home is likely going to be priced somewhat higher than the same home built conventionally.
This is where the “best value” women seek finds a perfect match in ICF construction. In 80% of U.S. households, the woman pays the monthly utility bill. She’ll value low energy costs. Ditto for the lower homeowner’s insurance with an ICF home.
As investors, women hold a longer-term perspective than men. As a future resale, an ICF home will likely enjoy higher appreciation and sell more quickly than a similar, conventionally-framed house.