High performance building envelopes are Insulating Concrete Forms (ICFs) are the newest concepts in eco-structures and home construction. High performance construction is set to save us all money while protecting our environment. What is a high performance building, and what are the advantages of building with these materials?
- High performance building materials and envelopes: what are they? A high performance envelope is a prefabricated building system that provides great structural strength, excellent thermal insulation, and is easy to work into the design of any type of structure. It can go up quickly, so that construction project times are shortened by weeks. Insulating concrete form, in particular, is a type of high-efficiency building material consisting of hollow foam blocks that are stacked to match the desired shape of a building’s exterior, then reinforced with rebar and filled with concrete.
- What are the advantages of high performance buildings and ICFs? There are at least four things that make these superior methods and materials for modern construction.
- Construction is cost-effective Although the costs can initially seem higher, in the end high performance envelopes generally cost the about the same as a wood frame construction would. This is because of labor savings from shortened construction times, as well as less waste generation on-site. In fact, ICF construction can often cost less: even 40% less.
- Construction happens faster A typical building can be finished in weeks or even months less time using this prefabricated building system. The materials are high performance, but the installation is fast and can be installed in large sections at a time. There’s also no need to trim anything as all pieces arrive already framed to size, which saves both time and waste.
- Construction is highly energy-efficient Reduced thermal bridging and tight assembly mean that there are fewer places where energy can be lost. There are fewer places where conditioned and unconditioned spaces meet, and insulation is continuous. Estimated energy savings on a home made from ICF blocks is 30% to 70%, and outside air filtration can be reduced by about 75%. This means fewer allergens, as well.
- Construction is more sustainable The average ICF installation will save about ten trees. That’s not even taking into consideration the savings in building time, and the efficiency of made-to-spec construction. Reductions in energy consumption are of course also good for the environment, and fewer allergens getting in means fewer air filters.
- Construction is stronger High performance buildings with ICF walls can stand up to winds over 400 kph. On average, their strength is six to nine times greater than that of a traditional building, and they are highly resistant to tornadoes and hurricanes. This strength also makes them ideal for the hotel industry, as they stand up better to abuse and are more soundproof than traditional hotel construction materials.
There are many good reasons to consider prefabricated ICF construction for any building project. They provide superior strength and insulation while providing environmental and economic benefits, and are likely to be future’s primary construction method.