Rising energy prices and devastating hurricanes are creating demand for ICFs in the residential sector, while commercial construction will continue to make impressive gains, fueled by new tax credits and incentives for “green building.”
“This will be another great growth year, even if construction in general slows down,” says Hubert Max Kustermann, CEO of Quad-Lock Building Systems.
“The outlook for the ICF industry in 2006 [is] very strong,” writes Gary Brown, director of marketing and sales at Amvic Building System. “With higher energy costs, builders, consumers, property managers, and commercial developers will look for energy-efficient forms of construction. Global warming will continue to create… more focus on fortified and sustainable buildings…More focus and education on green building will also drive more consumers to use ICFs. Generally, the ICF market has an excellent opportunity to show good sustainable growth into the future.”
EPS foam and polystyrene—the materials ICFs are made from—are both derived from crude oil, and as the price of oil rises, the cost of ICFs will inevitably increase. The industry faces challenges as well. » For the full length version, subscribe today!
The only accurate, comprehensive, and up-to-date comparison chart of every ICF system in North America, along with a primer for choosing the right block for your next project.
An increasing number of homeowners, architects, and builders are finding that concrete pourover systems are a perfect match for ICF construction. Pourover systems are also gaining popularity among commercial contractors, who appreciate the speed, flexibility, and ease the systems afford.
At the most basic level, a concrete pourover system consists of a lightweight, stay-in-place decking material—usually steel or expanded polystyrene foam (EPS)—covered with several inches of steel-reinforced concrete. When cured, it creates an incredibly strong floor at an attractive price, and can be stamped, stained or finished like conventional concrete. These floors are often installed in conjunction with radiant hydronic heat.
But the system isn’t limited to flooring. Besides durable decks and patios, two-story garages, and attractive home flooring, these systems are being used to construct safe room ceilings and earth covered roofs. A few builders are even using them to make sloped, gabled roofs which are highly insulated and virtually indestructible.
Energy terms are often confusing and sometimes not suited to the situation they are used in. Terms like “tested R-value,” “performance R-value," and “K-value” need to be better understood in order to appreciate the advantages that ICF construction offers.
In the energy conservation business there are two major problems; heat gain and heat loss from the building envelope—the floors, walls and ceiling of the structure. The three measurable heat transfer methods are convection, conduction, and radiation. A thermal resistance number, or R-value, can be calculated for each of these terms. The higher the R-value, the better the product is a stopping the flow of heat.
In terms of performance, an ICF structure will outperform any other type of conventional structure with double the R-Value in the energy, structural strength and return on investment. Why? Because ICFs are airtight, non-conductive, have good thermal mass, are very strong and have the advantage of increasing in value purely based on the spiraling cost of energy regardless of location. » For the full length version, click here
Connecting Framed Walls
The issue of how to fasten wood- or steel-framed walls to the exterior ICF shell is a common concern for new builders. Fortunately, these attachments are easily made. There are several solutions, all of which are relatively simple and straightforward. Whatever method you choose, be sure the attachments will meet code and are approved by the engineer.
The easiest way to tie framed walls into the concrete shell is to take advantage of the furring strips on the ICF block. If the location of the interior wall aligns with a column of ties, it’s simply a matter of driving a series of 3-inch drywall screws through the stud and into the furring strips.
An alternate method is to secure interior walls to the floors and ceilings. Care should be taken to ensure this method meets code in your area, and that construction techniques account for flexing in the roof trusses due to snow loads and other factors.
The Insulating Concrete Form Association’s Fall Meeting, held in Indianapolis, IN, September 19-21, was the largest in ICFA's history.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the event was the number of people it attracted. More than 300 ICF manufacturers, molders, distributors, contractors and design professionals attended the show, and booth space was sold out weeks before the event. Attendees consistently ranked networking as the most valuable part of attending the show.
At the board of directors meeting, industry leaders tackled several major challenges. One was the membership of the board itself. A second issue was whether to set up a certification program for ICF contractors. Both issues will likely surface again as the ICFA and the industry as a whole continue their rapid growth.
One of the common requests Design Basics receives is to convert one of our traditional stick-frame homes to ICFs.
These requests come from both builders and consumers who run the gamut of familiarity with ICFs—from those who are just discovering insulated concrete forms to others who are absolutely convinced they want to build with them. The common denominator is their need for the ICF home plan in order to proceed.
Who should re-draw an existing home plan for ICFs? First, check with the designer or architect of the original plan. They may have a stipulation that they are the only ones who can make any changes to their home plans, so you would need to work with them on adapting the plan. Many firms, including Design Basics, will make plan modifications or allow other competent design professionals to make the changes on your behalf.
A reasonable approach is identifying 2-story homes where most of the outside walls on the second level stack with the first floor walls. The next step is typically to stretch the exterior walls outward 7 inches, but usually involves much more. We’ll use ‘the Manning’ house plan printed below to illustrate.
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