ICF Information for You

What is ICF?

I C F stands for insulated concrete forms .  An ICF block is an expanded polystyrene  building block with a polypropylene web inside to be able to attach interior and exterior siding.

What does an Icf home look like when it is finished?  An ICF home looks like any conventional new home on the inside and on the outside.  The window sills are deeper since the walls are thicker. Very few people can tell the difference between an ICF constructed home and other types of construction.

What kind of siding can be used on ICF systems?  Virtually any exterior finish can be used within the ICF system.  In fact ,stucco is much more cost-effective to apply over and ICF wall because the foam is already in place.  For example :brick, stucco, Hardie siding, vinyl,  or wood would be great choices for the exterior of a home.  Interiors would be great with Drywall, plaster, tongue and groove paneling,and whatever else you can come up with!

What is the approximate R-value of an ICF wall?  A typical ICF wall with a 6 inch concrete core will have an approximate R-value of 50.  Both the inside and outside panels of 2 5/8 inch EPS foam have an R-value of 25. When combined with the thermal mass of the concrete the actual performance is much higher.

What kind of foundations can be used with ICF?  Any kind of foundation can be used with an ICF wall as long as the rebar extends out of the slab or footing to connect the ICF wall to the foundation. It can even be built on pilings.  When we build, it is part of the wall system which includes the footing, stem wall and wall along with the framing, sheating, insulation and house wrap.

Do ICF walls sweat?  No they do not sweat because EPS is a poor conductor of heat and cold.  Water vapor that may be present in the structure will not condense on the walls.  The EPS is open cell and repels liquid water but allows water vapor to pass through which allows the building to breath.

Can termites eat ICF?  No.  Termites do not eat the foam in ICF because it is inorganic.  Termites can however  eat through wood to get their favorite food, more wood.  This is a problem in traditional woodframe structures  but is not a problem with ICF homes as the structure is made of concrete.  Needless to say termites do not eat concrete.

Is ICF more expensive to build with that traditional stick framing?  Yes.  Costs vary depending on the specifics of each project but usually the project total will be 2 to 7% higher overall than with a similar traditionally framed wood house. Icf homes are so energy-efficient that the cost difference is typically recouped in energy savings.

What are the main benefits of building and ICF home?  ICF homes are stronger, safer, quieter, and more energy efficient than woodframe or concrete block.  ICF walls are built with steel reinforced concrete and fire retardant expanded polystyrene foam.  When compared to wood framed walls, ICF walls are far more resistant to the spread of fire and are far more likely to remain standing after.

How long does it take to build at ICF home?  And ICF home can usually be built in the same amount of time as any other type of home.

How do you protect the exposed foam between the grade and the siding?  A cement-based product is applied with a trowel over fiberglass mesh which is attached to the ICF wall to give it protection from stones water and other hazards.

Green Building Basics

Buildings account for one-sixth of the world’s fresh water withdrawals, one-quarter of its wood harvest, and two-fifths of its material and energy flow.BUILDING “green” is an opportunity to use our resources efficiently while creating healthier buildings that improve human health, build a better environment, and provide cost savings.


What Makes a Building Green?

A green building, also known as a sustainable building, is a structure that is designed, built, renovated, operated, or reused in an ecological and resource-efficient manner. Green buildings are designed to meet certain objectives such as protecting occupant health; improving employee productivity; using energy, water, and other resources more efficiently; and reducing the overall impact to the environment.

What Are the Economic Benefits of Green Buildings?

A green building may cost more up front, but saves through lower operating costs over the life of the building. The green building approach applies a project life cycle cost analysis for determining the appropriate up-front expenditure. This analytical method calculates costs over the useful life of the asset.

Even with a tight budget, many green building measures can be incorporated with minimal or zero increased up-front costs and they can yield enormous savings.

What Are the Elements of Green Buildings?

Below is a sampling of green building practices.


  • Start by selecting a site well suited to take advantage of mass transit.
  • Protect and retain existing landscaping and natural features. Select plants that have low water and pesticide needs, and generate minimum plant trimmings. Use compost and mulches. This will save water and time.
  • Recycled content paving materials, furnishings, and mulches help close the recycling loop.

Energy Efficiency

  • Passive design strategies can dramatically affect building energy performance. These measures include building shape and orientation, passive solar design, and the use of natural lighting.
  • Develop strategies to provide natural lighting. Studies have shown that it has a positive impact on productivity and well being.
  • Install high-efficiency lighting systems with advanced lighting controls. Include motion sensors tied to dimmable lighting controls. Task lighting reduces general overhead light levels.
  • Use a properly sized and energy-efficient heat/cooling system in conjunction with a thermally efficient building shell. Maximize light colors for roofing and wall finish materials; install high R-value wall and ceiling insulation; and use minimal glass on east and west exposures.
  • Minimize the electric loads from lighting, equipment, and appliances.
  • Consider alternative energy sources such as photovoltaics and fuel cells that are now available in new products and applications. Renewable energy sources provide a great symbol of emerging technologies for the future.
  • Computer modeling is an extremely useful tool in optimizing design of electrical and mechanical systems and the building shell.

Materials Efficiency

  • Select sustainable construction materials and products by evaluating several characteristics such as reused and recycled content, zero or low off gassing of harmful air emissions, zero or low toxicity, sustainably harvested materials, high recyclability, durability, longevity, and local production. Such products promote resource conservation and efficiency.
  • Use dimensional planning and other material efficiency strategies. These strategies reduce the amount of building materials needed and cut construction costs. For example, design rooms on 4-foot multiples to conform to standard-sized wallboard and plywood sheets.
  • Reuse and recycle construction and demolition materials. For example, using inert demolition materials as a base course for a parking lot keeps materials out of landfills and costs less.
  • Require plans for managing materials through deconstruction, demolition, and construction.
  • Design with adequate space to facilitate recycling collection and to incorporate a solid waste management program that prevents waste generation.

Water Efficiency

  • Design for dual plumbing to use recycled water for toilet flushing or a gray water system that recovers rainwater or other nonpotable water for site irrigation.
  • Minimize wastewater by using ultra low-flush toilets, low-flow shower heads, and other water conserving fixtures.
  • Use recirculating systems for centralized hot water distribution.
  • Install point-of-use hot water heating systems for more distant locations.
  • Use state-of-the-art irrigation controllers and self-closing nozzles on hoses.

Occupant Health and Safety

Recent studies reveal that buildings with good overall environmental quality can reduce the rate of respiratory disease, allergy, asthma, sick building symptoms, and enhance worker performance.

Choose construction materials and interior finish products with zero or low emissions to improve indoor air quality.  Many building materials and cleaning/maintenance products emit toxic gases, such as volatile organic compounds (VOC) and formaldehyde. These gases can have a detrimental impact on occupants’ health and productivity.

Provide adequate ventilation and a high-efficiency temperature control system.

Prevent indoor microbial contamination through selection of materials resistant to microbial growth, provide effective drainage from the roof and surrounding landscape, install adequate ventilation in bathrooms, allow proper drainage of air-conditioning coils, and design other building systems to control humidity.


Steps to Ensure Success

  • Establish a vision that embraces sustainable principles and an integrated design approach.
  • Develop a clear statement of the project’s vision, goals, design criteria, and priorities.
  • Develop a project budget that covers green building measures.  Allocate contingencies for additional research and analysis of specific options.  Seek sponsorship or grant opportunities.
  • Seek advice of a design professional with green building experience.
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