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ICF (Insulated Concrete Forms)

Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF) is a system of formwork for reinforced concrete made with a rigid thermal insulation that stays in place as a permanent interior and exterior substrate for walls, floors, and roofs. The forms are interlocking modular units that are dry-stacked (without mortar) and filled with concrete. The units lock together somewhat like Lego bricks and create a form for the structural walls or floors of a building. ICF construction has become commonplace for high performance residential, and commercial construction as more stringent energy efficiency and natural disaster resistant building codes are adopted.
(See images of ICF Forms below)

 

Building Process

Walls

ICF walls are constructed one row at a time. As the wall rises, blocks are staggered to avoid long vertical seams. Steel reinforcement (rebar) is placed vertically and horizontally. Structure frames known as bucks are placed around openings to give added strength to the openings and to serve as attachment points for windows and doors.

Interior and exterior finishes and facades are affixed directly to the ICF webs. Brick and masonry facades require a 'brick ledge' at the main floor level. Interior ICF polystyrene wall surfaces are ready for drywall installation.

Concrete placement for ICF forms is best accomplished with a concrete pump.

Characteristics

Energy Efficiency

  • Minimal, if any, air leaks, which improves comfort and reduces heat loss compared to walls without a solid air barrier.
  • High thermal resistance (R-value) typically above R-24 this results in saving energy compared with un-insulated masonry.
  • Continuous insulation without thermal bridges or "insulation gaps", as is common in framed construction.
  • Thermal mass, when used well and combined with passive solar design, can play an important role in further reductions in energy use, especially in climates where it's common to have outside temperatures swing above inside temperatures during the day and below at night.

Strength

  • Insulating concrete forms create a structural concrete wall, either monolithic or post and beam, that is up to ten times stronger than wood framed structures.
  • Structural integrity for better resistance to forces of nature, compared to framed walls.
  • The components of ICF systems - both the poured concrete and the material used to make the ICF - do not rot when they get wet.

Sound Absorption

ICF walls have much lower rates of acoustic transmission. Standard thickness ICF walls have shown sound transmission coefficients (STC) between 46 and 72 compared to 36 for standard fibreglass insulation and drywall. The level of sound attenuation achieved is a function of wall thickness, mass, component materials and air tightness.

Fire Protection

ICF walls have a four- to six hour fire resistance rating and negligible surface burning properties.

Indoor Air Quality

Because they are constructed without a sheet plastic vapor barrier, ICF walls can regulate humidity levels, mitigate the potential for mold and facilitate a more comfortable interior while maintaining high thermal performance.

Environmental Sensitivity

ICF walls can be made with a variety of recycled materials that can minimize the environmental impact of the building.

Vermin

Because the entire interior space of ICF walls is continuously occupied (no gaps as can occur between blown or fibreglass insulation and a wood frame wall) they pose more difficulty for casual transit by insects and vermin. Additionally, while plastic foam forms can occasionally be tunneled through, interior concrete walls create a much more challenging barrier to insects and vermin than do walls made of wood.

 

Typical ICF Forms

 

Typical ICF Wall
Concrete poured, rebar reinforcement visible.

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At Authentic Construction Ltd Toronto, our ICF installers are just a call away for all of your construction and structural needs in Toronto and the GTA. For more information please visit authenticconstruction.ca