Advantages of building with ICF are manifold and primarily center around comfort of living, lower costs and environmental impact. The advantages of building with ICF related to comfort of living include
– Absence of air leaks, which reduces heat loss
– High sound absorption
– Better structural integrity and higher resistance to forces of nature
– ICF is up to 10 times stronger than wood framed structures
– Higher resale value due to longevity of materials
– Better insect resistance
– ICFs do not rot when it gets wet
– Reduction of HVAC operating costs by 30%-70%
The cost of using ICFs rather than conventional construction techniques is most sensitive to the price of labor, wood, and concrete. Building using ICF can add 3 to 5 percent in construction cost over building using wood frame. However, the energy savings of an ICF home usually result in far lower cost for utilities compared to most conventional construction.
Below grade construction, such as basements, in most cases ICF construction will come in about 40% less than conventional construction because of the labor savings from combining multiple steps into one step.
Above grade, ICF Construction is typically a little more expensive. But when adding large openings, ICF construction becomes very cost effective. Large openings in conventional construction require large headers and supporting posts whereas ICF construction reduces the cost because all you need is additional reinforcing steel directly around the window and large openings; and large openings reduce the materials needed (concrete, rebar, ICF).
Typical new home in Canada costs $60–100 per square foot. According to one estimate, building walls of ICFs adds $1.00-$4.00 to this figure. But since ICF houses are more energy-efficient, the heating and cooling equipment can be up to 50% smaller than in a frame house. This can cut the cost of the final house by an estimated $.75 per square foot. So the net extra cost is about $.25-$3.25. According to a 2001 HUD report, the additional cost is $2.00-$4.00 per square foot.
Environmental benefits of ICF
Sustainable or green building practices promote the construction of buildings that are healthier for the occupants and healthier for the environment. They reduce the tremendous impact that building construction, operation, maintenance, and disposal have on both people and nature.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Center for Sustainable Development, buildings consume 40-50% of the world’s total energy, 25% of its wood harvest and 16% of its water. The building industry is the nation’s largest manufacturing activity, representing more than 50% of the nation’s wealth.
A recent report by the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) promotes Green Building for the Biggest, Easiest Cuts in CO2 Emissions. Energy-saving technologies applied in buildings can result in enormous reductions in demand for fossil fuels and emissions of greenhouse gases.