Recently, I had an opportunity to speak with Dan Fenton of Fenton Builders in Ellsworth, ME about an exciting new building technology known as Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF).
Fans of ABC’s hit television series Extreme Makeover Home Edition may have seen Dan and his father Bill as they volunteered their expertise in the construction of an ICF home for the Vitale family in Athen’s, VT last fall.
After several lengthy discussions with Dan regarding the advantages of constructing a home with Insulated Concrete Forms, it comes as no surprise the Dan has chosen the technology for his own home in Cherryfield, ME.
What Are Insulated Concrete Forms:
Unlike traditional stick built or modular frame construction, ICF homes are constructed with hollow “blocks” or “panels” made of plastic foam that construction crews stack into the shape of the building’s walls.
Once the blocks are in place, the contractor fills the airspace between the two foam panels with reinforced concrete to create the structure. There are a variety of different ICF products on the market today, each with their own unique differences. Fenton Builders has been using BuildBlock for the last 3 years and has been very pleased with its performance.
ICF construction sandwiches a heavy, high-strength material (reinforced concrete) between two layers of a light, high-insulation one (foam). This combination creates a wall with the perfect combination of desirable properties: air tightness, strength, resistence to molding, sound deadening (your home will be incredibly quiet), and amazing energy efficiency.
The Benefits of Insulated Concrete Forms:
Comfort: Houses built with ICF walls have a much more even temperature throughout the day and night. They have virtually no “cold spots”, and sharply fewer drafts.
Strength: The rigidity of concrete construction reduces the flex in floors and cuts shifting and vibration from the force of the wind or the slamming of a door. Concrete houses survive high-force winds like hurricanes far better than wood homes. And when properly reinforced, they should also withstand earthquakes well.
Quietness: About one-sixth as much sound gets through an ICF wall compared with an ordinary frame wall. This sharply cuts the intrusion of noise from outside. These feature alone makes them an ideal choice for construction in noisy neighborhoods near highways, train tracks, and airports.
Energy Efficiency: The superior insulation, air tightness, and mass of the walls cut the amount of energy needed for heating and cooling by as much as 50% or more over conventional 2X6 wood construction. For homes that use expensive home heating oil, this can amount to savings of $1500 or more during the winter heating season. In addition, it allows the installation of smaller heating and cooling equipment saving you money in construction costs.
Look at the difference in heat loss between these two homes taken with an infrared camera. One home is constructed with Insulated Concrete Forms, the other is a traditional stick built home. Notice that on the stick built home you can see outline of the 2×6 frame construction where the wall insulation is the weakest. Which home would you rather heat in the winter, or cool in the summer?
Design Flexibility: ICF houses can be completed with almost any interior and exterior finishes and can take any shape as easily as wood frame. In fact, some interesting effects, such as curved walls and frequent corners, can be less expensive to build into an ICF home. An experienced insulated concrete form (ICF) contractor can construct an ICF home for about the same price as a similar “stick built” home and the advantages can be huge.
Don’t Make the Same Mistake I Did:
If you are considering the construction of a new home, I urge you to consider the advantage of a home utilizing insulated concrete forms as well as a geothermal heat pump heating and cooling system.
The initial construction cost will quickly be recuperated in the form of lower energy and maintenance costs. My biggest regret in the construction of our current home is that I didn’t take the time to research different building materials and systems before we began to build, and I don’t want you to make a similar mistake.
An Explanation of how Geothermal Heat Pump Systems Work
Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF): Green Building Technology
Do It Yourself (DIY) Geothermal Cooling System
Should You Pre-Buy Your Home Heating Oil This Year?
Do It Yourself Home Energy Audits
36 Ways to Reduce Your Home’s Energy Use
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