One of the biggest reasons for implementing insulated concrete forms into a design plan is because of the increased energy efficiency compared to traditional stud framing methods. The task of reducing your carbon footprint falls on all homeowners, but especially those who are building new. Although there may be some premature worries about added cost of ICFs compared to traditional framing, the difference in cost is recouped quickly thanks to very noticeable energy savings, reduced labor costs and speed in production.
The energy savings from ICF construction comes from the fact that the permanent EPS (expandable polystyrene) foam used to form the walls acts as an insulator in itself supplying a factory R-24 without a concrete core. Of course the larger scale savings arise when the EPS panels are filled with concrete to form a continuous wall. This setup is not only a greater structural strength than wood framed walls, but the insulation is far more superior in creating a thermal barrier and a tighter seal in general. This amounts to less air loss through the walls and in between gaps in the framing which thus amounts to much lower utility bills.
Real Energy Savings
In the construction industry “energy savings” can almost sound like a buzz word attached to nearly every building feature. In the case of ICF walls however the savings are palpable. In fact insulated concrete form construction has been shown to cut heating energy by 44% while costing 32% less to cool the home. These savings numbers climb based on the size of the house as well as if the property is located in an extreme hot or bitterly cold climate.
Besides the savings from avoiding air loss, ICF walls also have the ability in using smaller sized HVAC units or running standard HVAC units for shorter periods. This adds to the energy savings not only in lower upfront costs, but also in the monthly requirements to heat and cool the home. Plus these energy savings extrapolate over time. What this means is that as a wood frame home ages it shifts, rots, deteriorates, etc. which allows gaps to form and energy costs to rise. The airtight seal of ICF walls basically stays “as-is” for decades meaning low cost in maintenance for the owner as well.
Overall, these energy savings come from the fact that ICF walls are just more energy efficient in total compared to wood frame walls.