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Insulated Concrete Forms Are the Future of Construction — Here’s Why

Formwork has been an inseparable adjunct to concrete ever since the building material gained popularity in the Roman Empire. But unlike the Romans’ preferred type of forms (which were made of reeds), modern forms are more than just a mold for concrete. Driven by Insulated Concrete Forms (ICFs), the latest generation of formwork offers easy installation, predictable costs, disaster resilience, enhanced energy performance, and elevated comfort. It’s these benefits that make Insulated Concrete Forms the future of construction.

This post will deep-dive into all the ways Insulated Concrete Forms like Logix ICF make life easy for both the builder and the future occupant of the homes they enclose.

Advantages for the Builder

Insulated Concrete Forms Save Time and Money

Building with traditional, removable formwork only gets you a bare, concrete wall that still needs a host of other building elements before it can serve as a part of the envelope. On the other hand, using new-generation forms like Logix ICF gives you these 6 steps right out of the box:

  • Concrete
  • Steel Reinforcement
  • Insulation
  • Air barrier
  • Vapor barrier
  • Furring strips

By bundling all these steps into 1, you save significant resources on labor and minimize the number of trades working on your site. Your framers can easily set up ICFs and get them ready for the concrete truck on their own.

That said, a system like Logix ICF will still require waterproofing on the exterior and an ignition barrier — such as drywall — on the interior if used as a foundation wall.

Insulated Concrete Forms Offer Better Price Stability Than Wood

Historically, the cost of lumber has been low — which partly explains the lengthy love affair between North American builders and light-wood frame construction.

But as the COVID-19 pandemic has shown, lumber prices are prone to fluctuations. Wild ones, too. In the span of about 18 months, the cost of building with wood doubled, then fell, then soared once more. With the pandemic raging on and the battered supply chain still on its knees, who’s to say where lumber costs will go from here? They may skyrocket, plummet, or continue their rollercoaster ride, but only one certainty will remain — that builders like you will continue to guesstimate your construction budgets for years to come.

In contrast, ready-mix concrete and Logix ICF have better weathered the health crisis and the resultant economic volatility and have experienced far less disruptive cost fluctuations

Insulated Concrete Forms Will Help You Meet The Inevitable Net-Zero-Ready Requirements in Cold Climates 

Opting for an ICF product like Logix ICF can help you meet the impending, onerous new energy standards without high extra costs.  

By joining the Paris Agreement, Canada has set its course towards a net-zero future. As part of this commitment, the country aims to make all of its new homes net-zero-ready by 2030 — and the province of British Columbia is spearheading the change.

The proposed changes are complex, but their end goal is to reduce how much energy buildings consume. By 2030, the NBC’s goal is to slash buildings’ Total Energy Intensity by 50% pre-2015 levels. This metric is measured as the annual amount of energy consumption from all sources and can be managed by enhancing the building envelope and maximizing the energy efficiency of appliances.

For building envelopes, the new standards mean being far more airtight and have substantially higher R-Values than the present-day industry standard. We’re talking less than 1.0 ACH50 and R-40 exterior walls.

Achieving these standards with conventional construction methods entails doubling the amount of batt insulation in a wall’s stud bays and adding layers of continuous insulation.

Using a system like Logix ICF for at least the below-grade walls helps the walls achieve these demanding new standards without high added costs or significant changes to the building’s footprint.

Advantages For the Homeowner

ICF Basements Are Not Prone to Condensation

Unlike traditional cast-in-place concrete foundation walls, ICF walls protect the concrete from condensation by insulating it on both sides.

Regular in-situ concrete foundation walls separate the warm interior from the cold — and often frozen — soil outside. Due to this temperature difference, concrete foundation walls often suffer from condensation, which builds up on the inside and causes countless moisture-related problems for the owner.

On the other hand, ICF walls protect the concrete core from these temperature differences, thus averting condensation build-up.

ICF Above-Grade Walls Add a Significant Boost to a Home’s Energy Efficiency

When used above-grade, ICF walls enhance energy efficiency by eliminating thermal bridging, ensuring airtightness, and increasing the walls’ thermal mass. We call these 3 characteristics the ‘ICF Effect.’

While wood-frame construction gives heat an escape route out of the home via the studs and sill plates, ICF walls don’t have any horizontal elements to act as a thermal bridge. Simply put, ICF walls allow far less heat to dissipate through them.

What’s more, ICFs enclose the monolithic concrete core with 2 layers of continuous insulation, ensuring the walls’ airtightness. And airtight walls not only reduce energy consumption by blocking the escape of warm air. They also elevate the occupants’ comfort by eliminating drafts and cold spots.

Finally, ICF walls have tremendous thermal mass, which delays heat transfer through the wall. Known as ‘thermal lag,’ this phenomenon helps maintain the indoor climate without the need for mechanical conditioning when outdoor temperatures abruptly change.

Insulated Concrete Forms Are Incredibly Resilient Against Natural Disasters

As accelerating climate change brings about a growing number of natural disasters, homeowners across North America need to adapt. This means ditching the old building methods in favor of new, more resilient alternatives. While wood-frame homes fare relatively well in earthquakes (due to their lightweight and flexible nature), their performance in tornadoes and hurricanes is abysmal. They’re also a firefighter’s worst nightmare (no big surprise here — wood is inherently flammable).

In contrast, ICF walls are strong enough to resist lateral forces, whether caused by seismic waves or heavy winds.

As experience shows, ICF homes are also surprisingly resilient in wildfires — that’s because their walls are 4-hour rated and tested up to 2,000° F temperatures.

Fireproof homes built with Logix ICF
Fireproof homes built with Logix ICF

Wrapping It Up

While your father’s construction methods were sufficient just 2 short decades ago, today, they’re not enough to adapt to the changing world. Insulated Concrete Forms are the future of construction — they elevate home comfort, boost energy efficiency, protect against intensifying natural disasters, and have predictable costs.

Should I Build My Gable Walls With ICF or Just Frame Them?

ICFs make a suitable building material for gable walls, especially if the gable section is heated or the gable walls require high wind resistance. For example, a high vaulted ceiling in a great room is bound to accumulate rising heat, so blocking heat transfer with highly efficient ICFs is an excellent idea.

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By |2021-10-19T11:09:19-04:00October 5th, 2021|

About the Author:

President, Logix Brands Ltd.
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