With consumer demand for energy efficient homes and commercial buildings rising along with the cost of energy, the Southern California Ready Mixed Concrete Association has joined with a local utility company to offer building professionals practical workshops on insulating concrete form (ICF) building systems -- stay-in-place forms for casting concrete walls -- that offer 35 to 50 percent energy savings over conventionally framed construction.

The next seminar will be held Friday, August 18, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at The Gas Company's Energy Resource Center, 9240 E. Firestone Blvd, Downey, CA.

According to industry figures, ICFs have been gaining steam in the residential market during the last 10 years: concrete homes currently account for about 16 percent of single-family construction. Increasingly, architects and builders are using ICFs for light commercial construction, capitalizing on the system's energy efficiency, durability and ease of construction.

ICF systems use stay-in-place polystyrene foam wall forms, assembled like "Legos" and reinforced with steel. Concrete is pumped into the forms and allowed to harden. The resulting wall typically has two and a half inches of foam insulation on each side, typically sandwiching six to eight inches of concrete. The interior and exterior of these walls can be easily clad with any traditional finishing material.

The ICFs' heavy-duty insulation and concrete's thermal mass help even out temperature swings in even the most dramatic climates. And HVAC systems can be designed on a smaller scale, further cutting costs at the front end of construction. Sustainability, durability, reductions in sound transfer, and improved indoor air quality are also benefits of ICF construction.

The August 18 workshop is designed for architects, builders, designers, engineers and developers, and will highlight commercial, institutional, school and residential projects in Southern California. Nationally recognized speakers with a wide range of expertise will address design considerations, construction process and build-ability, marketing advantages and the potential point additions of ICFs to U.S. Green Building Council's LEED rating system.

In addition, attendees will be able to discuss issues with vendors and tabletop exhibitors. The seminar includes lunch and is co-sponsored by The Gas Company and the Southern California Ready Mixed Concrete Association.

There is no charge for the seminar, but pre-registration is required and available on-line at www.socalgas.con/erc. Architects can earn 3.5 AIA learning units. For further information call The Gas Company at 1-800-427-6584, and select option one.