ICF’s are often described as being an extremely “green” option. This is partly true since they help conserve energy in a home’s operation, but what about all that Styrofoam and concrete?
Welland, ON (PRWEB) December 19, 2012
There is a changing cross section of products being offered in the construction material market today. This is due largely to the increasing pressure to create more energy efficient buildings. One product that has gained popularity in the last decade is the ICF, or Insulated Concrete Form. This is a lego-like Styrofoam block system with a hollow core that is filled with rebar and cement. While more energy efficient than a typical stud-framed home, it still lacks in the R-value department coming in at around R-20, which is mediocre for a wall system.
What is great about this system is that there is no thermal bridging because of the continuous layer of Styrofoam around the envelope. This helps to prevent heat loss through thermal bridging as well as providing a reasonable level of insulation (or R-value). Another advantage of the ICF wall system is that it can be used below grade and is therefore not affected by moisture.
BioSIPS, or prefabricated straw bale walls, share most of the benefits of ICF’s as well as having some additional ones. With ICF, the insulation is on the outsides of the wall, but with the BioSIP, it is the opposite; there is an insulating middle core encased in 1” of concrete. The advantage of having the stucco on the outside of the wall is that it acts as a thermal mass, allowing the walls to slowly absorb energy and later release it, significantly improving indoor temperature fluctuations and shifting energy demand to off-peak times. The BioSIP wall system also exhibits an R-35 thermal value which is about double the insulation value of ICF.
ICF’s are often described as being an extremely “green” option. This is partly true since they help conserve energy in a home’s operation, but what about all that Styrofoam and concrete? Concrete boasts some of the highest embodied energies of all building materials as does Styrofoam. The resources required to produce these materials are tremendous. And what happens to all this material at the end of its life cycle?
This being said, concrete is often a necessary evil. It is durable, cost effective and works well as a foundation. As far as foundations go, ICF’s are great for a basement but do you really want to your entire house to be made out of Styrofoam? Think about it.
A good solution might be to use the ICF’s for the foundation and the BioSIP walls for the above grade wall sections, getting the best of both worlds.