Tighter Envelopes with Health Built In

Using insulated concrete forms is quickly becoming one of the healthiest and fastest ways to create the tighter continuous insulated envelops necessary for high-efficiency homes

By Victor Amend, Ph.D

As building envelopes tighten up for heightened efficiency, the options for how to make them so grow exponentially. That being said, there is an option that stands out from the crowd; a durable, resilient and innovative option. Insulated Concrete Forms (ICFs,) are hollow, lightweight forms manufactured using high density expanded polystyrene (EPS) panels which are connected by uniquely designed, 100 percent recycled polypropylene webs, making the blocks 60 percent recycled material by total weight. During construction, the forms are stacked, braced, and then filled with concrete making resilient, durable structures that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout the building’s life-cycle; from the planning, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation and demolition phase. Insulated concrete forms offer a “5 in 1” solution that provides structure, insulation, vapor barrier, sound barrier, and attachments for sheet rock and exterior finishes in one easy step. ICFs produce high performance buildings that are designed and constructed to minimize maintenance and repair, offering low energy consumption reducing operating costs and the ability to continue functioning in adverse situations.

ICFs combine expanded polystyrene (EPS) insulation and concrete thermal mass, in an air-tight wall system. “This highly effective combination of materials minimizes temperature fluctuations by absorbing and storing heat and eliminate air infiltration and exfiltration providing a superior preforming wall system” says Gary Brown, Vice President of Marketing and Technical Services at Amvic Building System. This equates to an average of approximately 30-50 percent reduction in energy consumption for heating and cooling, which results in an equivalent reduction in harmful emissions. “Furthermore, Amvic manufacturing centers use steam and cold water to produce ICFs. No CFCs, HCFCs, formaldehyde, or any chemicals are used in the manufacturing process and no off-gassing is present in the finished material.”

ICFs are sustainable/green building and qualify for LEED.  “Our ICF blocks and flooring systems are United States Green Building Council (USGBC) and Canada Green Building Council (CAGBC) LEED certified and can make significant point contributions to your building’s LEED certification,” says Gary Brown.  “They allow architects, engineers and designers to create buildings that uses fewer natural resources and are more sustainable.” ICFs reduce waste at the construction sites—any waste produced is 100 percent recyclable.  They use fewer natural resources, such as gas, electricity and wood. Reducing waste is also an important factor for green building construction; ICFs can generate as little as 1 percent construction waste. This greatly reduces land filling which produces methane emissions.

Along with the recycled content of the Amvic ICF webs, the concrete that is placed into the forms is manufactured with recycled material (slag) and the end product can also be recycled creating a cradle to grave type product. The steel reinforcement that is used in the ICF forms is also made from 99 percent recycled material making the overall use of insulated concrete forms a highly sustainable process, even Greenguard Gold certified, which means that they have met some of the world’s most rigorous and comprehensive standards for low emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and are designed for use in indoor spaces that meet strict chemical emissions limits, which contribute to the creation of healthier interiors.

ICFs are durable, resilient and innovative. They offer protection from fires, earthquakes, severe storms and flooding. Government led public/private programs and National Building Codes are supporting and recognizing disaster resilient building design and continuous thermal insulation which have changed from traditional construction methodologies to providing green buildings with measurable results.  ICF construction contributes strongly to building safer communities while achieving sustainable construction and a healthier way of life.

Victor Amend, Ph.D., leads Building Sciences at Amvic. To learn more visit www.amvicsystem.com.

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