As the conclusion to the first decade of the 21st century approaches, builders are making the move to insulating concrete forms (ICFs) in custom-build projects, incorporating them in a variety of applications and design. The benefits of ICF construction--energy savings, comfort, safety, and noise reduction--have now jumped off of a brochure and onto architect's blueprints. Builders also are taking advantage of several programs that ICF construction qualifies. These programs include the Health House program, Fortified Construction through the Institute for Business and Home Safety, the Green Building Initiative, and Energy Star programs.
Builders are starting to take advantage of several of the benefits of using ICFs. One of these advantages is participation in the Health House program through the American Lung Association. Bob Moffitt, communications director, Health House, has seen several homes that have participated in the program built with ICFs. "The Health House program focuses on interior air quality," he says. "The use of insulating concrete forms allows the home to have lower air exchanges, helps control the ventilation process, and also helps with moisture control." Moffitt sees several trends in building codes that are going to impact construction and benefit ICF construction.
Fortified Construction designation is another of the new programs that has emerged in the last five years. Chuck Vance, project manager, is seeing intensified interest in the program as the number of storm and hurricane events have provoked new approaches to building safer and more storm-resistant homes. "Fortified branding comes through third-party verification and is just another piece for builders to incorporate into building a better product," Vance says.The Energy Star program looks at the total energy performance of a house and then gives it a number to rate the performance. The Federal Energy bill of 2005 has certain tax incentives for houses that achieve a 50% reduction in heating and cooling. There is a $2000 tax credit per unit built if the 50% reduction can be achieved. This is another program that requires third-party verification.
Kate Driscoll with the National Association of Home Builders' (NAHB) Concrete Home Building Council sees a strong interest in building systems that promote environmentally friendly construction methods. "Green building is the buzz at the trade shows that I participate in," she says. Driscoll feels that the more the market pressure builds regarding green building, the more important education of contractors is going to be. The NAHB currently offers two courses through the University of Housing.
The Green Building Initiative (GBI) is another one of the new generation programs. Kelly O'Brien, director of residential programs, states, "The goal of the GBI has always been to bring green to the mainstream of commercial and residential construction" O'Brien sees a place for ICFs in the GBI future. "The National Association of Home Builders provides a flexible and strenuous set of green building guidelines that state and local home building associations use to create local, regionally appropriate green building programs. The flexibility of these guidelines allow builders to incorporate progressive techniques such as insulating concrete forms into green homes built to NAHB Model Green Home Building Guidelines. In fact, NAHB's National Green Building Guidelines award energy efficient points for use of ICFs."Steve Heller, executive director of the Insulating Concrete Form Association (ICFA), is seeing the interest in ICF systems grow. The ICFA recently rolled out its ICF specialist designation to build awareness in the marketplace of installers and builders using ICFs.
Berkley White, owner and vice president, Classic Home Building and Design, Myrtle Beach, S.C., has built several ICF houses in the Myrtle Beach South Carolina market. Safety is one of the big factors that he sees related to consumers' interest in using ICFs. "We live on the coast and people want to know that if they have to evacuate due to a hurricane, their home will still be there," he says. Impact-resistant glass for windows and doors is used in many of the ICF-constructed houses. "Several of our houses have been certified by the IBHS to be Fortified Homes. This helps the homeowner get a break on their insurance or even get insurance at all," White says.