Net-zero energy homes (homes that produce as much clean energy as they consume) are the future of construction. They offer all the benefits of enhanced energy efficiency, from reduced costs to increased comfort. In order to build a net-zero energy home, you need to reduce the home’s energy requirements.
This blog post is a feature of a net-zero home built way up north in the city of Yellowknife in Canada’s Northwest Territories. It’s one thing to build a net-zero home in a warm sunny state like Florida, but it is a much stiffer challenge to build net-zero in the cold north and that’s where super-insulated Logix insulated concrete forms (ICFs) come into play!
You will learn how you, too, can create a high performance home using ICF blocks. Interestingly enough, this home is actually the first ICF home in Yellowknife, and the builder, Dave Leblanc, installed every block himself!
But this northern net-zero home is not just noteworthy for its high performance. Leblanc also used the project as a launching pad for his construction company, allowing him to specialize in ICF blocks and ultimately separate himself from his competitors.
WHY BUILD A NET-ZERO HOME?
Net-zero homes have been called the “future of homes” for a lot of reasons. First and foremost, they are highly energy efficient. According to the Canadian Home Builders’ Association, net-zero homes are up to 80% more energy efficient than standard homes.
Here are some of the benefits:
- From low utility bills all-year-round to protection against future increases in energy prices, net-zero energy homes are the economical choice over the long-term. You can also expect a 25% rebate on your mortgage insurance premium.
- High Level of Comfort. Temperatures remain the same throughout the home — there are no draughts. Temperatures also stay consistent during power failures as well.
The Leblanc home, for instance, kept its temperature at 21 degrees without heat even though it was -10 degrees outside.
- Outside noise pollution such as traffic and lawnmowers is reduced due to the superior insulation power of net-zero homes.
- Environmentally-Responsible. Net-zero homes are more environmentally responsible, allowing you to protect against climate change and preserve natural resources.
WHY NET-ZERO ENERGY HOME BUILDERS CHOOSE ICFs
Why do net-zero energy home builders choose insulated concrete forms (and Logix ICF, in particular)?
If you want to achieve a net-zero home, the building envelope must be highly-efficient. ICFs offer a level of thermal performance that is considered to be “greater than the sum of its parts.” This is known as the “ICF effect.” Insulation is clearly important, however, the performance of a wall assembly is more critical than the insulation itself.
How do we know this, you ask?
Consider the following well-known study: it concluded that exterior walls made with ICFs require 44% less energy to heat and 33% less energy to cool when compared to wood-framed walls, even though both had a similar insulation value. Despite this, ICFs create a much more energy-efficient building.
But what makes this possible?
- Continuous Insulation. Gaps between the insulation reduce the insulation value of a traditional wall. When it’s said that R-19 batt-insulation in framed walls has an R value of 19, this isn’t actually true. This is because the insulation is only effective between studs.
With Logix ICF blocks, the foam is a consistent thickness, which means that the stated R-value is accurate. Additionally, the foam ties within the Logix walls don’t act as a thermal bridge as is the case with wood studs.
- Air Tightness. Framed walls are hollow and allow for a lot of air leakage to occur (through sheathing joints, for example), making them a major cause of lost energy. Wood framed walls also shrink and crack over time, leading to even more leakage. Keep in mind that spray insulation does not ensure that all leaks have been addressed either.
With Logix however, continuous foam insulation panels are placed inside a solid concrete wall, making them airtight. Any potential leakage is also easily identifiable.
Here are a series of images from the Leblanc build that illustrate this point:
- Thermal Mass. Concrete provides a 5-day thermal lag, which, again, is not the case with wood-framed walls.
You can read more about high-performance homes with Logix ICF and see more examples here. Here is also a time lapse of a net-zero home built with Logix ICF:
THE LEBLANC HOME AND THE LOGIX ADVANTAGE
A whopping 95% of the exterior walls in the Leblanc home was built with Logix ICFs. Specifically, the home was designed with R-28 Logix Platinum Series with the 8” concrete core.
Here’s what’s beneficial about using the Platinum Series:
Logix Pro Platinum is comprised of thick, 2¾” panels made with Neopor® by BASF. Neopor contains millions of graphite infrared absorbers and heat reflectors. This enhances the R-value, creating walls with a superior R-value of R-28 — all without sacrificing wall thickness. (This is actually the equivalent of adding a complete layer of R-5 rigid insulation to the majority of other ICF brands.)
Keep in mind that this is 23% to 60% superior to most other ICFs. It’s also why Logix is particularly suited to net-zero homes in northern and climates where heating is required. Indeed, Logix XtraComfort™ Homes can reduce energy consumption in half and reduce HVAC load by 40 to 60%.
Logix Platinum products are also the only ICF products in the world that are Greenguard certified for indoor air quality.
The Leblanc home also used slide-in R-8 Logix panels (Logix D-Rv), which brought the home up to R-36.
Here are some noteworthy facts about this particular home:
- First home in the Northwest Territories to attain an Energuide 85 rating. This rating then qualified Leblanc for a $1500 rebate (again, the first rebate ever issued in the Northwest Territories)
- Leblanc installed every block himself – he didn’t hire a crew at all. The installation process was very efficient, with a labor rate of 0.55MH/sq.ft. This more than made up for the cost of concrete. Indeed, many installers end up shaving weeks off their total labor time. This is due to the fact that six traditional construction steps are condensed into just one.
You can also read about another net-zero energy home that used Logix ICF as well.
USING ICFs AS A COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE IN THE CONSTRUCTION BUSINESS
Leblanc decided to build with Logix after building a 3,000 sq. ft. home on Vancouver Island with conventional forms. Realizing the time and money involved, he thought “there had to be a better way.” He started with building ICF foundations and then moved to a full ICF home.
There are a lot of interesting facts about this particular build (and the builder himself). But, we want to draw attention to the fact that Leblanc will be using this particular project to launch his own construction business; Leblanc will specialize in ICFs and, in particular, high-performance 2,000 sq. ft. homes with three bedrooms and two bathrooms.
With ICFs offering such clear advantages for homeowners, builders can set themselves apart from their competitors and gain a competitive edge in the market.
WRAPPING IT UP
Net-zero energy homes are the future of construction, and insulated concrete forms are a critical component of achieving this goal.
It’s the Logix brand, however, that is a leader in the market. With Logix’s ICF blocks offering more insulation power, not to mention reduced labour time and lower costs for a quick and easy build, the choice was an easy one for installer Dave Leblanc looking to build an net-zero energy home.