The Benefits To ICF Construction In Cornwall
Insulated Concrete Forms, or ICF, are a construction technology that have been around since the 1970s, and have been enjoying a steady rise in popularity as the technology has been refined and its benefits have been demonstrated. Demonstrated to be produce extremely energy-efficient buildings with a lifespan measured in centuries instead of decades, that are impermeable to moisture, cannot rot or decay, are resistant to termites, quick to build, and produce terrific acoustic properties, there are a thousand reasons to consider ICF for your next build.
What are ICF’s?
Insulated Concrete Forms are like Lego Blocks for construction. Typically made of polystyrene (Styrofoam), ICF’s are quite literally building blocks, used to create the walls and foundation of your structure. Unlike Lego, ICF’s are designed to be hollow so that after creating the outline of your building, they can be filled with concrete. After curing, you’re left with a structure that will last for centuries, using polystyrene as insulation and concrete for structural strength, producing passive benefits to heat management and therefore carbon production for the life of the building.
What Are The Benefits?
The reason that ICF has been enjoying rising popularity over the last few decades is due to its benefits with respect to energy-efficiency. The nature of ICF produces buildings that reduce thermal bridging, are airtight, and completely impervious to moisture penetration. Recent studies have shown that ICF structures provide in excess of 30% savings on energy draw for heating and cooling, a benefit that lasts for the life of the building. Not only does this mean good things for utility bills for as long as you live in an ICF home, but it also means good things for the environment in general, as a home that is easier to heat and cool is a home that relies less on the burning of fossil fuels. As the demand for environmentally friendly building practices increases, and the price of energy goes up, the benefits of owning an ICF structure will only become more prominent.
Beyond the environmental and energy benefits, ICF is extremely easy to live with. Air-tight and moisture-proof, they create an environment of extremely high quality air and acoustic comfort. Moreover, because you ICF buildings are stud-less, you can hang shelves and pictures anywhere on any your wall, as all nails and screws will take hold in the polystyrene behind your drywall. This also makes in-wall wiring and plumbing a breeze, as channels for each are easily cut into the polystyrene insulation.
What Are the Cons?
ICF homes are extremely efficient, comfortable, durable, nature-proof structures. They are a premium building method that create structures that stand for centuries instead of decades, but this is not to say they come without costs.
Like any high-quality building materials, ICF’s require an upfront investment that is greater than you would expect from a typical factory-built home construction. While the running expenses of an ICF building are extremely low, this comes at the cost of a higher initial investment. Compared with other premium-level building materials and methodologies however, ICF is competitively priced.
Additionally, there is some controversy surrounding the alleged ‘green’ status of ICF construction. Polystyrene and concrete are two materials that generate enormous amounts of carbon to produce, and are generally not recyclable. Many argue that the investment of carbon that goes into the construction of most ICF structures is more than the environmental efficiency of the structure earns back.
Finally, because it is a comparatively rare building methodology, often ICF structures are built by untrained and unskilled labourers who do not understand the proper way to design and build with ICF. Because you are building a structure with concrete, more energy is required in the design-phase of a structure. After a wall is framed is a traditional wood house construction, it’s fairly easy to decide to put a window in it afterwards. The same cannot be said of ICF. Once a wall is up, it’s up; there’s no cutting into a wall to put in a window, because doing so will compromise its structural integrity.
Why Windmill Construction?
The problems concerning upfront cost, environmental impact, and the unique requirements of ICF construction and design can all be mitigated, if not eliminated entirely, with the right care and attention taken during design and construction. This is the primary benefit that we at Windmill Construction provides our clients when performing ICF construction builds.
Better ICF Builds For Less With Windmill
Typically, ICF construction starts with a design drafted by an architect, and sent off to suppliers of ICF’s for quotes on materials. This requires these suppliers to provide their best approximation of your structure with the forms that are available in their catalogue. Not only will this provide you an end product that differs from initial designs, but it will also cost you significantly more than the approach that is taken by Windmill.
Instead of drafting designs to send to suppliers, we take our understanding of a suppliers catalogue, and incorporate it directly in the design phase of your build. By selecting a supplier of ICF materials before drafting a design, you’re able to leverage an understanding of the forms available and draft designs around them, saving costs and creating a building guaranteed to directly matches your designs.
Mitigating Environmental Impact With Materials Selection
There is a lot of debate concerning the environmental impacts and benefits of ICF construction amongst environmental architecture and builder communities. On the one hand, Because ICF is so efficient at passively managing the heat of a structure over its life (which can be centuries), the savings an ICF structure produces in terms of energy expenditure, and therefore carbon production, are immense. That said, these savings come at a cost.
Concrete and Polystyrene, the two major ingredients of an ICF build, are major carbon producers. As a general rule, it’s said that one tonne of concrete produces approximately one tonne of greenhouse gasses, and ICF structures require hundreds of tonnes of concrete. Additionally, Polystyrene is the product of complex petrochemical processes that produce carbon, and in an ICF build, cannot be recycled.
Though ICF requires a comparatively large up-front carbon investment, it’s important to keep in mind that the carbon savings ICF provides over its life go a long way to mitigating this investment. As of now, the industry consensus is that environmental benefit boils down to one’s selection of materials. Choosing the right ICF supplies allows one to reduce the upfront carbon investment required for their building, and therefore maximize the long-term environmental return of ICF.
Generally, ICF structures are built with polystyrene blocks, but few seem to be aware of the environmentally friendly alternatives to polystyrene available on the market for ICF’s. Take Durisol, for instance. Instead of polystyrene, this ICF supplier uses cement-bonded concrete fiber to produce their forms. Produced in Hamilton, and consisting of over half recycled or recyclable material, building an ICF structure with Durisol instead of an equivalent polystyrene ICF provides your structure enormous savings on carbon investment and produces a building that is just as energy efficient as an equivalent polystyrene ICF structure.
These are only a few simple ways that Windmill Construction’s extensive experience and understanding of ICF allows our clients to minimize investment in environmental and monetary costs, while still enjoying all the benefits of ICF. We reduce your monetary investment by selecting a supplier before designs are drafted to leverage our understanding of their catalogue to minimize cost and maximize value. We reduce your buildings carbon investment by selecting the right suppliers of concrete and ICF, allowing the environmental benefits of ICF to pay back your carbon investment faster.
The Windmill Advantages
Windmill is an Cornwall leader in ICF construction, our specialists have over 14 years of experience in the design and construction of residential and commercial ICF buildings. We understand the ins and outs of ICF, and leverage that understanding to build to a higher standard and lower cost than our competition. From initial designs all the way to the finishing touches, we deploy our extensive knowledge to build structures that maximize all the environmental and energy efficiency benefits that ICF provides, while lowering the cost to access them.
If you’re interested in building with Insulated Concrete Forms, then get in touch with Windmill Construction for the best quality ICF available in Cornwall.