Since the 1940s, insulated concrete forms (ICFs) have provided owners with unparalleled insulation. These systems were first used in Europe to restore damaged buildings after World War II. Today, with rising materials costs, energy costs, and disaster-related costs, ICF’s are growing in use like never before.
ICFs are insulated foam blocks that lock into place (similar to Legos) and are then filled with reinforced concrete. They provide protection against severe weather, naturally resist termite and insect damage, and require less labor to install than wood construction. They also offer an unmatched value for the money.
The ICF market has grown measurably in recent years, thanks, in part, to the simplicity of ICF systems. In 2006, North America used 17.4 million square feet of ICFs, according to the Insulating Concrete Form Association. In 2016, this number had skyrocketed to 104 million — a six-fold increase in just a decade. In 1996, 90% of the buildings using ICFs were in the residential market. Today, 30% of buildings with ICFs are in the commercial sector. Restaurants, bars, theaters, retail outlets — all these businesses now use ICFs. It's safe to say that ICF is now one of the most popular building systems in the world.
Builderup, the retail division of Chaney Enterprises, offers ICF blocks, admixtures, steel reinforcement, roof and floor systems, and general building supplies, along with design assistance for ICF structures. We also offer jobsite installation training for ICF. Chaney Enterprises, the leading concrete production company in Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, and Washington D.C., offers ready-mix concrete specially formulated for ICF
ICF is the Smart Choice
Value for the Money
ICF construction costs typically range from a 5% cost savings to a 5% cost premium depending on many factors. No matter where initial costs fall, ICFs provide long-term economic benefits. The most notable financial benefit is a reduction in heating and air-conditioning costs averaging between 25% and 50%, depending on several design factors.
Speed of Construction
ICF installation is relatively simple when compared to traditional framing lumber. They are faster than CMU’s, tilt-ups, and even traditional poured concrete walls. Home construction can be completed weeks ahead of wood framing. Hotels and condominium buildings can be completed months ahead of any other method. This is because ICF combines several steps in one by acting as the building’s structure, furring, insulation, sound proofing, and vapor barrier. They are also less affected by weather conditions than other building methods. Utilities are easily run through the foam before applying final finishes directly to the ICF surface. In most cases it takes just one small construction team to build even a large ICF building. This provides you with two main economic benefits:
Less interest paid on construction Loans
Revenue stream can begin sooner (commercial)
More jobs can be done per year
Less laborers needed
Lower labor cost
Helps with the massive labor shortage in the industry
Higher level of quality control
It is crucial that you choose the right construction team for your project. A properly trained team will understand how to capitalize on ICF’s built in efficiencies. Builderup has a network of ICF installers that can handle any size project. If you want your own crew to do the work we offer training, both in our facility and on your jobsite.
Proper design is also crucial to a fast and economical build. Buildings can be designed to maximize the value of ICF. Through membership in the National Ready Mix Concrete Association, Chaney Enterprises and Builderup can offer design assistance to either convert existing projects, or to design from the start. Designing specifically for ICF will be less expensive and faster than converting a design.
Plumbers and electricians, who are properly trained, find ICFs easy to use. Although tradespeople need the right knowledge and skills to install ICFs, these systems offer much in the way of flexibility. Insulated Concrete Forms come with reference marks, which speed up the construction process. Builderup offers training for all tradesman to help them work efficiently.
ICFs are lightweight meaning fewer injuries during the construction process and insurance costs may be lower. Many insurance providers offer lower-cost construction insurance products if you are building with non-combustible materials such as ICF.
You could continue to save money once your project is complete, too. Because ICF is naturally more resilient in the face of natural hazard, some insurance companies may adjust premiums for a stronger-built building.
Natural Hazard Protection
Adverse weather has a detrimental impact on buildings in the Virginia, Maryland and Washington D.C. areas. Tornados, in particular, cause massive damage to property infrastructure. The Washington, DC area is surprisingly plagued by tornados, with Maryland having the third-highest tornado density in the United States.
The devastation of Hurricane Sandy that narrowly missed the DC area still lingers in our collective memory. ICFs offer protection and peace of mind in the face of these monster storms. Research from the National Wind Institute shows that homes with walls made from ICFs protect people and property from windblown debris more effectively than buildings with walls made from wooden frames.
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), residential buildings with concrete walls also mitigate flood risks, and you can expect lower insurance premiums. ICFs also have fire resistant qualities. These systems provide you with more protection in the event of fire — a manmade disaster that killed 117 people in Maryland, Virginia, and DC in 2017.
While we may not know what disaster will strike, we can be certain that something will happen. Durable and resilient ICFs provide the solution.
Termite and Mold Protection
Termites plague the Mid-Atlantic states, especially during the summer. ICFs, with their concrete core, offer sufficient protection against termite damage. Unlike wooden structures — which termites feed on — pests cannot damage the foam and concrete walls, saving you a lot of hassle and money.
ICFs also safeguard against mold and mildew — two types of fungi that can damage your property. ICF systems provide enhanced moisture control, preventing your building from becoming a breeding ground for rot and decay.
ICFs require far less maintenance than conventional building systems. With less rot from mold and mildew, and more protection against termite damage, you won't have to spend time and money replacing wood and beams.
The most frequent complaints of tenants in both commercial and residential units are indoor air quality, uneven heating and cooling, and the loudest complaint of all – noise itself. The insulated concrete walls do more than what we’ve mentioned to keep moisture and temperature outside: they also keep the noise outside.
The Sound Transmission Class (STC) rating measures how sound travels from one side of the wall to the other. Most ICFs with a six-inch concrete core have an STC rating of 50 to 55. Insulated 2x4 wood stud walls have an STC rating of about 38.
50 versus 38 may not sound like a lot, but the decibel scale is logarithmic, so 50 decibels is ten times louder than 40 decibels. That means ICF walls stop more sound and give you less noisy complaints.
Chaney Enterprises and BuilderUp Case Studies
Built in 2006, the Washington Square Community in La Plata, MD offers a perfect study in the benefits of ICF construction. This multi-family development is a mix of duplex homes and townhouses. Built next to railroad tracks that see daily use, outside noise was a huge factor when considering building materials. Half of the rental units closer to the tracks were built in ICF, while the other half were built with conventional wood construction. All use electric heating and air conditioning.
In partnership with the local utility, we conducted a five-year analysis of energy consumption, comparing the wood-frame and ICF structures. Savings reach as high as 46% in the hot summer months and 36% in the winter. Much of the difference between seasons is an overall increase in electrical use as lights and other appliances typically used more in the dark, cold months.
Chesapeake Village Center
Built in 2017, Chesapeake Village Center in Stevensville, MD is the largest ICF structure in Maryland to date. The development is a mixed-use project featuring business on the first floor and residential units occupying the top three floors. Citing the durability of concrete construction, owner David Azar says, while he’s happy to be providing a superior structure for his tenants, the driving factor in his choice of ICF was his own family. He notes the durability of the building will provide headache-free security for his daughters and future grandchildren long after he is gone.