As traditional fossil fuel-based energy becomes more expensive, building industry innovators are exploring ways to create building technologies that are environmentally friendly, cost effective and provide multiple benefits to the occupant. As a whole, the construction industry has poured millions of dollars into research and development to come up with building techniques that meet the demands of the public while satisfying the goals of the government’s move toward green technology.
One result of that research is the development of Insulated Concrete Forms, or ICF. Combining polystyrene foam with reinforced concrete, ICF structures offer greater energy efficiency (equivalent to R 22 insulation), as well as increased fire and storm resistance. ICF can be used in the walls of slab foundations, crawl spaces, basements, and the living area creating a healthier living environment by reducing excess noise and eliminating moisture problems common to traditional construction techniques.
Marty Walling, vice president of Beaver-Vu Construction located in Beavercreek, Ohio has expertise in the use of ICF technology. Walling recently became one of a select group of professional builders nationwide to earn the Certified Green Professional (CGP) designation. The designation requires 16 hours of class study followed by an exam and completion of annual continuing education requirements.
“An ICF home is extremely energy efficient because it is air-tight,” Walling says. “No joints exist in the exterior wall envelope, or between walls and floors. This prevents conditioned air leaking from the interior to the exterior of the home. Energy savings from reduced air infiltration are obvious when compared to the large amount of heating and cooling losses experienced in traditionally built houses.”
In a traditional wood framed construction, up to 15 percent of a wood framed wall has no insulation properties at all because the wall studs, plates and headers are solid wood and allow heat to be conducted more easily. The insulation, which is the real barrier to heat loss, is interrupted at these locations. The consistent and continuous expanded polystyrene, or EPS, insulation of an ICF building inherently prevents this kind of energy loss.
Beaver-Vu Construction is building one of the few ICF homes in the Miami Valley at the Wright Cycle Estates development just south of Xenia. He notes that, in addition to energy efficiency, people are concerned with how the ICF construction performs in severe weather.
“An ICF home is structurally designed to be ten to 20 times stronger than a stick framed home,” Walling says. “An ICF wall system can weather a tornado, earthquake or hurricane virtually un-scathed.”
Walling explains that the strength comes from the continuous structure of the ICF building method. “Standard framing technologies consist of thousands of independent components, fastened together by mechanical means,” Walling says, “creating hinge points of weakness throughout the building. ICF’s ‘cast-in-place’ concrete design creates a continuous and unbroken structural shell which is far stronger than any wood structure.”
“As a result,” Walling continues, “ICF walls can withstand winds up to 250 mph with the standard design specifications as recommended by Nudura, a leading manufacturer of Insulated Concrete Forms and other integrated building technology.” In addition to residential construction, Walling notes that hotels, schools, and office buildings can also be built with ICF.
The environmental impact of using ICF technology is minimal, which is one reason it is considered a green technology. Experts suggest that as many as 50 trees per home could be saved if ICF is used in construction. For example, Nudura manufactures its ICF forms using recycled materials, reducing the consumption of fossil fuels in the process.
The ICF home currently under construction by Beaver-Vu Construction will be open for tours in the spring of 2011. For more information on Insulated Concrete Forms technology and application, contact Marty Walling at Beaver-Vu Construction by calling (937) 426-4455 or go online to www.beaver-vu.com.