A better question would be, "Why would anyone consider building with anything else?"
When you drive up to any new home today, you probably can't tell how that home was constructed. That's because the exterior finish material (stucco, brick, wood, or vinyl siding) provides the same finished appearance whether it's placed over wood-frame or concrete construction. The only readily visible difference between the two is purely aesthetic: the thresholds and window sills are deeper on an ICF home. An ICF home, however, has many built in benefits over the same design wood framed house - the concrete provides exceptional strength and thermal mass and the foam provides a continuous layer of high performance insulation, translating into many advantages for the homeowner. AND, considering the energy and utility savings involved, the monthly expense of living in an ICF home can actually be less expensive than living in a wood framed home.
Exceptional Year-Round Comfort Sustainable & Environmentally Responsible
Solid & Durable Better Air Quality
Naturally Storm & Fire Resistant Resistant to Rot, Decay & Pests
Unbelievable Energy Savings Peace & Quiet From Outdoor Noise
Exceptional Year-Round Comfort
The thermal mass and insulating properties of the ICF shell absorb, retain, and store heat energy. This works well as a buffer to moderate indoor temperature fluctuations, maintaining a consistent temperature in the home - keeping indoor temperatures stable despite outdoor shifts in climate. Testing has shown very low instances of air changes per hour (ACH) in ICF buildings. What this means for the homeowner is simple but profoundly satisfying - the home stays cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter for long periods of time naturally, translating into a more comfortable place to live. An added benefit is the energy savings involved with the reduced size of the HVAC equipment as well as the reduced amount of time that the furnace or air conditioner will be running. Testing has shown homes built with ICF require an estimated 44% less energy to heat and 32% less energy to cool.
Solid & Durable
Homes made with ICF are sometimes called “1,000-year homes” because there’s little to prevent them from surviving intact for hundreds of years. The walls are strong enough to withstand up to 200 mph hurricane winds and tornadoes, earthquakes, and are fire-resistant for up to 4 hours. They’re unlikely to suffer from slow degradation the same way wood-frame walls do, so they stand the test of time. ICF homes have concrete exterior walls from the footers to the roof, so there is a significant reduction of leakages from rotting walls around doors and windows that can go undetected as in wood framed homes. ICFs also have built in resistance to such wood-borne issues as decay, mold, rot, and pests, which can gradually cause leakages and eventually erode the structure of the home. The solid ICF walls are made to withstand pretty much any disaster, whether natural or man-made. At nearly 2,000 years old, the Colosseum in Rome is one of the oldest standing structures in the world. What is it made of? Concrete. While no one can guarantee a home made of concrete today will last that long, homes built using insulated concrete forms have a much longer than average life span.
Naturally Storm & Fire Resistant
Insulated Concrete Form homes offer a level of safety no other building system can match. This is a natural result of having exterior walls with a core of solid, steel reinforced concrete. ICF homes have survived tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, and arson attempts. Testing shows that ICF walls can withstand winds of 200mph and falling debris of 100mph. Contrary to popular belief, the foam used in ICFs will not burn. If exposed to high heat, it will melt but will not contribute any fuel to the fire. In fact, it is virtually "self extinguishing" due to a flame retardant in the foam. A quick Google search will result in many stories with photographs of Insulated Concrete Form homes being the only remaining buildings standing after storms and fires laid devastation to all other structures in the area.
Unbelievable Energy Savings
One of the key factors that makes ICFs an energy-efficient choice is their tighter fitting structure, which allows for less air leakage and outside air infiltration vs. wood-frame homes. Another factor that makes ICFs such a great building choice is that they do more than just cut down on energy loss. Because they’re made of heat-absorbing concrete (the “thermal mass” of ICF), ICFs are able to retain and smooth out large temperature swings. Houses built with ICF exterior walls require an estimated 32% less energy to cool and 44% less energy to heat than comparable wood-framed houses. The energy-efficient design of the Insulated Concrete Forms allows for smaller and more cost-effective furnaces and compressors, saving on equipment costs. An ICF home ultimately requires less-powerful HVAC output, which translates into monthly cost savings on utility bills.
Sustainable & Environmentally Responsible
The key to sustainable building is saving energy and reducing carbon emissions. About 90% of the energy used in a building's life span is the heating, cooling, and lighting of the building. Continuous insulation and reduced air infiltration reduces peak loads and allows for a reduction in the size of the HVAC equipment in the home as well as a reduction in the frequency of running the system. Because the wood frame is eliminated, a home built with Insulated Concrete Forms saves at least 10 trees per home. In numerous testing situations, ICF is hands down considered Best-In-Class in five key areas: energy efficiency, noise reduction, indoor air quality, lumber usage, and life cycle. It is clearly the most sustainable form of concrete construction.
Better Air Quality
The two biggest causes of unhealthy air are mold and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The use of Insulated Concrete Forms reduces the amount of wood necessary to build the home, thereby reducing the risk of mold, mildew, and associated odors. Foam and concrete are simply not fungus friendly materials. ICF homes also have a high level of air tightness which reduces air infiltration, shutting out drafts that may contribute to dust and allergies. The ICF makes it difficult for outdoor VOCs to gain entry, this provides a much cleaner and healthier way of living.
Resistant to Rot, Decay, and Pests
Because ICFs are not made of organic material, these homes are not susceptible to rot, decay or pest infestation in the same way as conventional wood framed homes. ICFs form an impenetrable barrier, from basement to roof, that keeps pests at bay. Moisture at the base of a wood home equates to an environment conducive to mold, mildew, and rot. These conditions, as well as being health concerns, also attract pests. By using Insulated Concrete Forms, you instantly avoid all concern regarding wood-based mold, mildew, rot, and pest infestation. Testing in various climates and ecological conditions revealed that Insulated Concrete Forms are a superior form of rot, decay, and pest control.
Peace & Quiet from Outdoor Noise
Noise pollution creates stress and hinders communication. Further negative health effects of noise pollution include hearing loss, sleep disruption, cardiovascular disease, and impaired teaching and learning. ICFs have excellent noise reducing traits. The foam insulation absorbs sound, and the concrete in ICFs reflects noise. Many studies testing the sound absorbing qualities of ICFs show that only about one-quarter to one-eighth as much sound penetrates through an ICF wall compared to a wood-frame wall. ICF exterior walls are a superb product for preventing noise pollution.