From small foundations, additions and renovations to large commercial full-wall projects, Insulating Concrete Forms (ICF) offered an energy-efficient mode of construction long before sustainability was widely pursued, and understood, in the construction industry.
During the past 15 years, sustainability – and in particular energy efficiency – have become a priority. Building with ICF provides improved energy efficiency and effective thermal resistance. ICF also provides a safe and quiet living space, reduced noise transmission and reduced air leakage in the structure.
Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF), composed of Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) and held together by polypropylene webs, are used as an alternative to conventional foundations. The forms offer a "5 in 1" system that provides structure, insulation, vapor barrier, sound barrier and attachments for drywall and exterior siding in one. Thus reducing the overall cost for the consumer during the build.
ICF can be used for projects such as residential homes, recreational homes and cottages, multifamily projects, party walls for residential projects, industrial buildings and commercial buildings.
ICFs are polystyrene blocks that are stacked to form the building’s outer shell. The wall systems are reinforced with rebar and then filled with concrete to form an insulated barrier against energy loss. Thanks to the revolutionary construction method, the walls can be built in a fraction of the time it takes to create traditional homes. Despite the savings in labour and time, the ICF wall systems will still cost 10-15% more than a traditional 2×6 wood-frame structure.
Despite the large initial outlay, ICFs have a ROI of 10-12 years as the home and business owner enjoys reduced utility bills. It must be noted that this saving can only be expected in structures where the insulated building envelope’s integrity remains high. This means that ICFs must be complimented with high R-value window systems and adequate roofing insulation. Where the building envelope is sound, owners can anticipate a 30-40% reduction in energy bills when compared to a stick-frame building of equitable proportions. Of course these estimates do not take into account the increased resale value of a property built with ICFs.