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Construction & Trades


Top 5 uses for insulated concrete forms

2015-08-06

Insulated concrete form - also referred to as insulation concrete form - is a system of structural framework made of concrete units with an insulated interior. An increasing number of builders are implementing ICFs into their building strategies over the more traditional wood framing method in a variety of structures. The method is proving particularly useful in the construction of exterior walls, sustainable buildings, at-risk structures, swimming pools and basements.

1. Exterior walls
ICFs are frequently used to build exterior walls. According to the Expanded Polystyrene Industry Alliance, the concrete walls give the structure strength, while the layers of insulation add the benefits of greater peace, quiet and energy efficiency

2. Sustainable buildings
The increased energy efficiency of the method makes it perfect for sustainable buildings. Because the insulation is literally built into the walls, the U.S. Department of Energy reported that they result in high thermal resistance, allowing less cold air to escape in the summer and retaining heat in the winter. According to a report by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, using ICF in cold climates like Chicago can offer an operational energy savings of 20% as compared to code-compliant wood-framed structures. 

3. At-risk structures
When buildings are developed in an area that experiences regular seismic activity or dangerous fire seasons, insulated concrete form is a great choice. The Portland Cement Association reported that disaster resistance and safety are built into homes when ICF is used. Concrete provides better protection than wood framing,  allowing owners to rest easier knowing that their building is at less risk from natural hazards. 

Structures built with ICF are slower to burn than those with wood frames.Structures built with ICF are slower to burn than those with wood frames.

4. Swimming pools
More recently some people have started using ICFs when building swimming pools. The foundation's durability lets the pool weather the test of time more effectively, something that is especially appealing considering the effort and money that go into redoing an in-ground pool. The insulation can also help the pool retain heat, allowing the owners to enjoy its use even when the weather starts to cool.

5. Basements
Insulated concrete form is also being increasingly used in finished basements. According to the Department of Energy, insulating the basement minimizes the heat lost through the foundation, saving money on heating. 

It's a particularly effective strategy when building a basement wine cellar, as the insulation will help keep the interior environment stable despite changes in the ground temperature.  

Interested in learning more about concrete? Keep an eye out for upcoming Red Vector continuing education courses on the subject.