Over the past decade, the insulating concrete form (ICF) industry has focused on selling to homeowners. ICFs are appealing because of energy savings, wind resistance, and noise reduction. Total ICF shipments last year increased 26% in North America, from 44.7 million square feet in 2003 to 56.4 million square feet in 2004, according to the Insulating Concrete Form Association (ICFA).

ICF homes previously went up one at a time, but new changes—both subtle and obvious—could make them go up much faster. The subtle changes include a gradual shift in the marketplace to flat wall systems, whether block or panel construction, rather than post-and-beam or waffle systems.

Construction techniques have been honed over the years to create systems that assemble quickly and allow regular poured-wall concrete mixes. There are differences between the various systems, though most of these differences are small.

Development of ICF ancillary products is a more obvious change seen in the marketplace, and represents a real growth area. Some ICF systems have greatly benefited from the development of self-consolidating concrete, where concrete more easily fills the forms with little or no vibration. Other products, like detailing guidelines for acrylic finishes, window and door bucks, and common connections like straps and tie-downs, have also been developed to make design and construction easier and more flexible. This trend will likely continue as more companies tune into the opportunities the growing ICF market presents. “ICF construction has changed the way people think about building,” says Joseph Lyman, executive director of the ICFA.

Marketing efforts for ICFs are shifting from homeowners to concrete contractors. ICF manufacturers, through their dealer networks, are creating more sophisticated home plans to interest contractors, who then act on behalf of homeowners. In some cases, this has led to the construction of entire subdivisions of ICF homes like Rio Del Sol in Cathedral City, Calif., and Grande Dunes in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

To learn more about the following ICF systems or accessories, circle the corresponding reader service number and mail the card.

ICF walls engineered for results

The Engineered Wall System by Phoenix Systems is an affordable, efficient ICF system that delivers energy savings, noise reduction, severe weather protection, and healthier indoor air than traditional homes. Installation is quick and easy. The expanded polystyrene panels are 4 feet long and 16 inches high, in 5- and 7-inch widths; 90-degree and 45-degree corners are also available. Phoenix Systems & Components, 877-423-3676, www.phoenixicf.com. Circle 7.

ICF system for tall walls

Ideal for tall wall applications, this insulating concrete form system handles 8-foot concrete pours in one lift without blowouts. Features include 1.5-inch-wide metal attachment studs on 8-inch centers, 2.5-inch-thick expanded polystyrene for maximum holding strength, and a 1-inch-thick tongue and groove for quick assembly. It also features alternating left- and right-hand corners for proper stud alignment, and notches in metal studs that work as bar chairs for reinforcing steel placement. The system installs much faster than conventional materials, reducing construction costs. Commercial Block Systems, 888-921-2480, www.commercialblock.com. Circle 8.

ICF technology for home construction

Homes constructed with Nudura Insulating Concrete Form building technology are three times more sound-resistant and two times more energy-efficient than typical wood frame homes, according to the manufacturer. The system replaces wood studs and traditional walls with a sturdy concrete wall enclosed in insulating foam building forms that interlock and are filled with concrete. This process creates a nearly fireproof wall with high insulation value, sound-dampening qualities, and resistance to wind, rain, insects, and mildew. Nudura Corp., 866-468-6299, www.nudura.com. Circle 9.

ICF corner reinforcing strap

The weakest spots in any ICF wall during concrete placement are the corners. The Logix corner reinforcing strap is a molded-in-place metal strap that strengthens corner form units. This helps the units better resist pressure of concrete placement, and makes installation faster and easier for the builder. The straps also double as a fastening surface for finish materials, which can be screwed directly to the strap at any point along its length. Logix Insulated Concrete Forms, 800-415-6449, www.logixicf.com. Circle 10.