ICF Buildings and Acoustics
When initially considering the superior characteristics of Insulated Concrete Form (ICF) construction, the focus tends to fall primarily on the obvious advantages over traditional wood stud framing. Outstanding ICF attributes such as thermal efficiency, reduced build time and labor costs, durability, and eco-friendly use of sustainable materials, tend to attract the most attention from green-conscious architects and builders. The acoustic component of ICF construction is often overlooked, but unsurprisingly, ICF has proven that it has advantages here also.
Cinemas, Sound Studios and Acoustic Priorities
Acoustic efficiency is a design priority for venues where keeping noise pollution out is as important as enhancing the acoustical properties of sounds generated within. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development compared the sound reduction of 2 ICF houses with a wood frame house, all built from a single floor plan by the same builder.
The two styles of ICF, Reddi-form, and Lite-form, both outperformed the wood stud rendition in FSTC (Field Sound Transmission Classification ) testing with scores of 42 and 40, as compared to 34 for the traditional wood stud construction. Acoustic performance reduction in the ICF houses was caused only by windows in the residential design, and they still outscored the wood stud variation. Obviously, windows would be omitted in a cinema or sound studio application, leaving ICF unsurpassed as the optimal design choice for these acoustically sensitive projects. In these types of applications, ICF construction has been scored at an STC rating of 55+, when modern ICF forms are used with thicker walls and minimal openings.
The numbers represent ICF’s superior low-frequency noise reduction, the common type of sound pollution produced by a heavy truck or train, city traffic, or a jackhammer at a construction site. The difference between 34 and 40 or 42, is the difference between highly annoying to the human ear and a barely noticeable background audible.
Acoustic Advantages in Hotels, Airports, and Office Buildings
Hotels tend to be in the center of the noisy urban action and ICF construction here is a much more cost-effective way of providing a sanctuary of comfort for guests than the traditional and expensive thick-walled designs used in the past to achieve that desired acoustic result. Airports, obviously, need these same “sound sanctuaries” for passengers as well as employees.
70% of today’s modern workforce operates in large open-office environments where isolation from outside noise pollution is critical to productivity. Since these wide open layouts can’t rely on interior walls to provide further sound isolation, the ICF exterior envelope can provide this protection.
Minimizing distractions from noise pollution always enhances productivity and comfort, and any innovative design applying ICF can be sure to show a lasting return on investment extending long beyond the original savings in construction and labor.