ICF: The Potential Future of Home BuildsOctober 20, 2014
Though unheard of just a few years ago, it is now not possible to attend a building forum or even watch an episode of Grand Designs without hearing about the benefits of Insulated Concrete Formwork. So we take a look at what advantages this new method of house building provides, and the costs associated with it.
What is ICF
As an alternative to mainstream blockwork and timber frame, ICF uses Insulated Concrete Forms to provide the very structure of a new build.
The initial structure is created using polystyrene moulds or forms which are then filled with ready-made concrete, creating the entire shape of the walls.
The Advantages of Insulated Concrete Formwork
The overriding advantage of using a single mould to create the full structure of a unit is that the entire unit is constructed on site in a single piece.
Such a process ensures not only much greater energy efficiency within the home itself, but also much greater levels of efficiency in the materials that are used.
Unlike traditional building methods which require the erection of timber frames before construction, that then have to be taken down and disposed of when the walls are dry, once the ICF unit is created it remains in place, even after the build is finished, to create the insulation for the building as a whole.
Furthermore, such a modern way of working is also far less finicky than traditional builds. The polystyrene moulds are much easier to work with and demand far less building skills than brick and block techniques.
When time is short, Insulated Concrete Forms can also be an advantage. There is no waiting around for long lead in times from factory created timber frames, and ICF is so quick to construct that it can be up before traditional methods are out of the preparation phase.
And with no requirement for lintels, cavity trays or wall ties, ICF constructed buildings can be created in almost any size and scale that you like.
Looking at Concrete in a New Way
The introduction of ICF does make builders look at concrete in a whole new way. The quality of the mix is absolutely imperative and becomes the critical ingredient in any effective build.
It is therefore not surprising that so many contractors are now looking at more flexible volumetric concrete mixing options as opposed to traditional concrete mixers to ensure that the concrete can be mixed to exact specifications in quantities that are required on site.
As an overall process, it looks like ICF could well be a viable option for future builds. And by making the right choices when it comes to concrete mixing, the popularity of this process is likely to go from strength to strength.