ICF construction utilizes form systems, commonly known as stay-in-place forms, which are made of polystyrene. Once erected the forms are filled with concrete. The result is a strong, durable concrete structure that is structurally sound and highly energy efficient. ICF homes provide increased protection against fire and weather, superior noise reduction, and huge savings in heating and cooling costs, due to the R-21 to R-40 construction. ICF can be used for both below and above grade construction.
ICF homes create the desired energy efficient ratings necessary to qualify for "green building" certification under the LEEDS Rating System. Building with ICFs will meet or exceed all of the parameters of energy efficiency required by the new International Residential Building Code (IRBC).
In 1997, the Pennsylvania Concrete Promotion Council completed construction of a 2,500 square foot ICF model home in Carriage House Farms development in Upper Macungie Township. The heating/cooling system for the ICF home is an air-to-air heat pump system. The local power authority, PP&L, conducted an energy audit on the completed home and guaranteed that the annual heating and cooling costs would not exceed $65.00 per month for the first five years. Recent contact with the current owners has confirmed this. They report that they have not had a heating/cooling bill over $50.00 per month.
Homes built with ICF technology are less susceptible to damage from hurricanes, tornadoes, or other weather-related disasters. ICF homes can withstand winds of more than 600 miles per hour. According to a study by the University of California, ICF walls are as much as 700% stronger than wood framing. The concrete walls will not burn, and the polystyrene forms will not fuel or spread a fire. Toxic emissions from ICF are less hazardous than those from wood.
Building with ICF allows ease of construction, availability of materials, and flexibility of design. A two to three person crew can erect a single story home in as little as one day. ICF combines framing, insulating, and sheathing into one easy step. ICF also allows year-round construction. The insulated forms can protect fresh concrete in temperatures as low as -22° F without the need for special curing treatments. Plus, the ICF systems provide a curing environment that concrete commonly achieves strengths 50% over design.
A variety of exterior and interior finishes are available when using ICF. Most ICF systems incorporate a fastening system of plastic or metal to which sheetrock or paneling can be affixed. Any common exterior finish such as brick, masonry, stucco, vinyl or aluminum siding can easily be attached to the surface of the ICF.