Save On Energy With Concrete Design
Energy efficiency is an important part of any custom home build, as saving the environment also means saving money. Understanding how to leverage the benefits of your home materials with carefully considered design can not only make your home a better place to live and better for the environment, but save you considerable money in the short and long term. Consider the following design ideas that can unlock the potential of ICF and slab-on-grade foundations to minimize costs and maximize value.
Benefits of Slab Foundations – Passive Solar Design.
Passive Solar design allows your home to strategically manage sunlight, absorbing it in the winter, and rejecting it in the summer. With Passive Solar principles, you can rely on your slab foundation and the sun to heat and cool your home year round, instead of electricity.
Slab foundations have significant thermal mass, meaning they are able to absorb tremendous amounts of heat and passively heat their surrounding environment by radiating it back out. If your slab concrete floor is exposed to sunlight, it will collect and reflect that heat during the day and gradually release that temperature over a 24 hour period.
To take advantage of this effect in the winter, architects will design a home with massive windows that take advantage of the suns position when it is low in the sky during winter months. This will allow enormous amounts of light to come in through your window and hit your slab foundation, heating it all day long, and allowing it to heat your home. Like a magnifying glass is capable of burning paper, with the right design sunlight can have a tremendous heating effect on your slab foundation, and thus on the interior temperature of your home.
During the summer, with the right design you can depend on your slab foundation to cool your home as well. Thermal mass allows your slab foundation to get warm and stay warm, but if you find clever ways to keep it cool, it will reduce your homes reliance on A/C by persistently reducing your home’s temperature.
One such way is by building a roof with significant ‘overhang’ around the all edges. By designing this way, your roof becomes much like a large umbrella, putting your foundation in constant shade. By preventing the sun from warming it, you allow the ground it is effectively buried in to cool your foundation down by several degrees. This, in turn, will result in a significantly cooler home and reduced reliance on energy to run an A/C unit. Even during the hottest days of the year, you can expect the interior of your home to be significantly reduced simply by the thermal properties of your foundation.
Take Advantage of the R value of ICF.
The passive solar benefits of a properly designed home with slab concrete foundation are maximized when your building materials promote efficient insulation, and perhaps no building material is better at that than ICF. Insulated Concrete Forms are made of concrete, and therefore have extremely high thermal mass, just like a slab foundation.
The tremendous R value of ICF means that temperatures outside and inside are able to remain very different without much energy. If it’s hot outside, it takes very little energy to cool the inside. If it’s cold outside, it’s extremely easy to make things warm inside.
As far as green building materials go, ICF is a wise choice for builds that are looking to maximize energy efficiency in climates like Ottawa. In Ottawa, it gets extremely cold in the winter, and hot and humid in the summer. Our unique situation generally requires us to invest in significant energy heating and cooling our homes during the winter and summer months. As hydro prices get higher, custom home builders are recognizing the long term savings ICF builds can provide over other green materials.
ICF Beats Steel for Cold Temperature Management
Steel is one of the most recycled materials on the planet, and for that reason is often selected as a great choice for green building. It offers the benefit of a home that can be made primarily of recycled materials, and then recycled at the end of it’s useful life. It’s true that this results in a small front-end energy investment compared to ICF’s, but because ICF are so much better at managing the temperature of a home, it’s not clear that it’s a wiser choice for the net energy expenditure of a home over its useful life.
Steel does not share the same thermal properties as ICF’s. They conduct temperature and create thermal bridges, typically raising the energy requirements to heat and cool a home. Unlike ICF’s, steel is prone to introducing the temperature of your surrounding environment into your home’s interior. If it’s cold outside, your furnace will have to work harder to ensure it stays warm inside. If it’s warm outside, your A/C will have to work harder to keep it cool inside. The only way to get around this is to increase the insulation of your home, but because insulation is typically made of environmentally-unfriendly materials like polystyrene, doing so can often defeat the purpose of taking advantage of the environmental benefits of steel.
ICF and Slab – Passive Solar Strategy
A slab foundation and a steel structure, without extensive insulation, will work against each other with respect to regulating the temperature of your home. If your home design takes advantage of the passive solar benefits of a slab foundation and the incredible insulating properties of ICF, it can keep a comfortable temperature year round with a fraction of the energy required to heat and cool a typical home.
With the right window and roof design, your foundation will provide you free heat in the winter, and allow the ground to cool your home in the summer. By taking advantage of the thermal properties of ICF, you can rest easy year round knowing that your home will never have to work to heat or cool itself. With the right design, foundation and structure can work together to manage the interior temperature of your home so your furnace and A/C systems don’t have to.
Design For The Future
Ontario is currently dealing with extremely high energy prices, and they are only predicted to keep rising as time passes. Energy prices are more and more becoming a central aspect of home design in the province, driving demand for efficient house builds.
By leveraging the unique thermal properties of concrete through creative design, ICF’s and Slab foundations offer Ontarian’s an incredible opportunity to ‘insulate’ themselves from stratospheric hydro prices. By taking advantage of natural sources of heating and cooling, a home build not only pays for itself in energy savings, but promotes environmental stewardship by reducing energy expenditure.
While a higher front-end carbon investment compared to other green building materials steel, the longevity of concrete cannot be matched. Structures built of concrete materials like slab and ICF’s stand for centuries, and as long as a home is designed to be efficient, it will enjoy environmental and energy benefits for as long as it stands. This means that ICF/Slab structures not only reduce the carbon contribution of your family, but also every family that lives in the structure for centuries.
Windmill – Ottawa’s ICF and Slab-On-Grade Experts
As ecological stewardship becomes a more and more important aspect of home design, and as energy prices continue to rise throughout Ontario, homes designed to be efficient will become more and more valuable. Homes with slab foundations and ICF structures present incredible opportunities for efficient design, provided they are built with informed designed and quality craftsmanship. If you’re interested in the opportunities that slab foundations and ICF structures can provide your custom home build, make sure that you maximize the return on your investment by hiring the experts.
Windmill construction is an Ontario leader in slab and ICF home building and design, and can ensure that your build maximizes all the strengths concrete is able to provide a residential structure. To find out how to maximize the energy efficiency of your home with passive solar design and green materials, make sure you get in touch with Windmill Construction.