A: Insulating Concrete Forms (ICFs) are hollow blocks or panels made of EPS (expanded polystyrene) plastic foam that are stacked into the shape of the exterior walls of a residential or commercial building. Reinforcing steel is added and the gap (typically 101mm to 203mm) between the two layers of foam is filled with concrete, which cures and hardens into a monolithic core. The foam panel stays in place. This combination of concrete, steel and foam creates an incredibly strong and energy-efficient structure.
A: Homes built with ICFs offer resistance to natural disasters such as tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, fires and floods. An ECO-Block home can dramatically reduce heating and cooling bills, plus provide an exceptionally comfortable and quiet indoor environment.
A: Today’s concrete homes can be created with virtually any design or architectural feature. ECO-Block has furring strips every 8” imbedded in the panel to allow attachment of any finish — such as wood or aluminium siding, brick, stucco and stone on the exterior, and drywall or plaster on the interior. The result is a home that looks like any other structure in the neighbourhood but has all the benefits of solid concrete construction.
A: Typically, a home built with ICFs will cost slightly more than a comparable wood-frame home. However, much or all of this cost can be recouped through significantly lower utility and energy bills, insurance savings and downsizing of heating and cooling equipment. An experienced ICF contractor may be able to further reduce the costs of construction.
A: Conventional homebuilding crews adapt easily to ICF construction. Most of the work involved draws on standard carpentry skills and tools. The foam forms are lightweight, and power equipment moves the concrete.
A: Experience shows that concrete structures are far more likely to remain standing through fire than are structures built of other materials. Concrete does not break down until it is exposed to thousands of degrees Fahrenheit — far hotter than a typical house fire. In “firewall” tests, ECO-Block walls were subjected to continuous gas flames and temperatures of up to over 1000 Celsius for as long as four hours. None of the ICF walls ever failed structurally, in contrast to wood-frame walls, which typically collapse in one hour or less.
A: Walls made of ICFs perform, on average, like a wood-frame wall constructed with R-3.780 insulation. But that’s not the whole story. The equivalent R-value performance of ICFs consists of three factors. First is the R-value of the expanded polystyrene. Second, the thermal stability of massive concrete walls reduces the temperature fluctuations and, consequently, the heat load requirements that are images to wood-frame buildings. Finally, air leakage (infiltration) can account for 20 to 40 percent of the heat load requirements of a wood-frame building. ICFs eliminate this air infiltration through the wall assembly. As a result, with the combined performance of the R-value of the expanded polystyrene, the stabilizing effects of the thermal mass of the concrete, and the reduced air infiltration.
A: The foams in ICFs are manufactured with flame-retardant additives. The National Research Council reviewed the numerous existing studies of fire emissions and concluded that the emissions from polystyrene foams are no more toxic than those of typical softwoods used in home construction.
A: Concrete walls built with ICFs effectively buffer a house’s interior from the outdoors. The thick ICF sandwich of a massive material (concrete) with a light one (foam) sharply cuts fluctuations in temperature, air infiltration and noise. ICFs keep the inside more comfortable and less drafty than ordinary wood-frame walls. With regard to noise, studies have shown that compared to a typical wood-frame house, only about one-third as much sound penetrates an ICF wall.
A: Debris driven by high winds presents the greatest hazard to homeowners and their property during tornadoes and hurricanes. Recent laboratory testing at Texas Tech University compared the impact resistance of residential concrete wall construction to conventionally framed walls. Only concrete wall systems, such as ICFs and concrete masonry, successfully demonstrated the strength and mass to resist the impact of wind-driven debris. The wood-frame walls failed to stop the penetration of airborne hazards.
A: Yes. Eco Block meets the requirements of the Building Code of Australia. The 2000 and 2003 International Residential Codes have a section on ICF construction.
A: Yes. If properly reinforced, an ICF home can provide significant protection during earthquakes. If you live in an earthquake zone, you should consult a structural engineer to determine the reinforcement requirements.
A: In a building’s life cycle (from construction to demolition); the greatest ecological impact is the amount of fuel needed to heat and cool the home. Insulating Concrete Homes are a preferred environmental choice because of significant savings in natural resources needed to maintain a comfortable temperature. Building with Eco Block (ICF’s) reduces by up to 40% the consumption of green house gas emissions.
A: No. Subcontractors — such as electricians, plumbers and drywallers — can easily adapt to working in a house with ICF walls. Once they are familiar with the product, many tradespeople actually find it easier than working on a wood-frame home, brick and block construction.
EG NO CHASING THROUGHT BRICKS TO CREATE PENTRATIONS FOR PIPING OR WIRING
A: Yes. The ECO-Block system for insulating tilt-up concrete panels offers the speed of tilt-up construction with the benefits of an ICF wall. After setting the panels in the form, you install reinforcement and embed, and place the concrete. Once the concrete achieves the specified strength, the wall is lifted in place and screw-ties directly to the web system on the panel. For each additional inch of concrete penetration, attach 1” extensions to the web.
A: Experienced ICF crews report that building ICF homes can actually take less time than using wood-frame construction. The ICF construction method eliminates several steps — such as sheathing and insulating the exterior walls — that are necessary with wood-frame construction.
WE HAVE BUILT SINGLE STORY HOMES IN UNDER 6 DAYS OR INSTALLED THE EQIVLENT OF 25,000 BRICKS IN JUST 10 DAYS WITH 4 MEN INCLUDING THE PLACEMENT OF CONCRETE
A: Exposure of up to a year should not pose a serious problem. However, a light oxidation layer will develop on the surface of the forms after extended periods of exposure. This oxidation does not indicate any detrimental effects to the wall form. However, you may need to use a water spray to clean the oxidized layer prior to brushing the surface with a broom to provide a clean bonding surface.
A: ECO-Block ICFs can significantly contribute to a mould-free environment due to the inorganic nature of the material. They also create a very tight building envelope, reducing unintentional air infiltration. In high-humidity environments, interior moisture should then be controlled through the use of spot removal (e.g., bathroom fans) and properly sized air conditioning units that will cycle on long enough to dehumidify the air.