Posted on May 04, 2023
Insulated concrete forms (ICFs) have been around for more than a half-century. In the 1960s, Werner Gregori developed his “Foam Form” tongue-and-groove blocks, consisting of a waffle-grid core sandwiched between layers of plastic foam. In 1967, Gregori received a Canadian patent. The United States Patent Office also granted a patent, on October 24, 1968.
Today, ICF acceptance is surging in both the residential and commercial sectors. Research and Markets sees the global ICF market growing from $1.06 billion in 2023 to $1.46 billion in 2027. This represents an impressive compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.4%.
Reasons for ICF Market Growth
Key reasons for ICF market growth include resilience, energy savings, and sound attenuation.
Insulated concrete form construction typically outperforms wood and steel, often by substantial margins. ICF construction remains a cost-effective antidote to the vagaries of the weather. It also offers a potential way to save on homeowners insurance.
A Fox Blocks chart compares axial capacity (downward pressure applied by roofs, floors and walls), wall bending stiffness (ability to resist deflection), and lateral capacity (resistance to the force of wind, soil or earthquakes).
Although R-values of 20-28 are common, some ICF products get rated as high as R-48. Logix notes that ICF homes “require 32% less energy to cool and 44% less energy to heat.” As a result, ICFs are a popular choice for net zero designs.
Unlike wood and steel-framed construction, ICF walls minimize thermal bridging. It does this without additional materials and their attendant labor costs. Also, concrete’s thermal mass reduces temperature spikes. In 2017, CLEB Laboratories quantified the benefits of concrete’s thermal mass. In extreme cold, heating costs can be 60% less than those associated with wood-frame construction. In commercial applications, thermal mass delays peak loads until lower electricity rates begin.
ICFs reduce low-frequency noise generated by heavy trucks, trains, and jackhammers. Amvic tested its ICFs for airborne sound attenuation between rooms (ASTM E336). ASTC ratings were 47 (interior) and 48 (exterior).
ICF Builder Awards: Residential Highlights
ICF Builder Awards highlight examples of residential and commercial ICF construction nationwide. Collectively, residential award winners demonstrate both the energy-efficiency and versatility of ICF construction.
Sunshine Green Home – Small Residential Winner
The $1.9 million “Sunshine Green Home” includes a 2,805 sq ft primary residence with attached garage. The home is in Hurricane, a community of 20,000 in southwestern Utah. The 3-bed, 3-bath home features 12-ft ceilings. A deck atop the garage includes a hot tub and fire pit.
The property also includes a 867 sq ft guest casita with 2-bedrooms and 2-bathrooms. Total construction time was 20 weeks. Installation of the 11,264 sq ft of Amvic ICFs took 70 days. Forty-two solar panels take advantage of an annual average 261 days of sunshine.
Zarillo Residence – Small Residential 1st Runner-up
While the Zarillo residence in Watertown, CT, took about two years to complete, installation of the 9623 sqft of Nudura ICFs took less than a month. The 2,508 sq ft Net Zero home features triple-pane glass and a geothermal system. The property includes an in-law apartment along with provisions for aging in place.
White Residence: Large Residential: 2nd runner-up
Installers used 6,000 sq ft of Nudura ICFs during the construction of the White home. Construction of the 4,285 sq ft, $1.2 million home in Bowling Green, KY, took 65 weeks. ICF installation included six different wall heights, and it took 15 days. South Florida Design, saw to it that interior elements flow seamlessly outdoors.
ICF Builder Awards: Commercial Highlights
On the commercial side, mid-rise projects are popular, although ICF projects have exceeded 20 stories. This year, a residence hall, church, and net zero mixed-use development won ICF Builder awards.
St. Philip the Apostle Church – Heavy Commercial Winner
St. Philip the Apostle Church is in Flower Mound, a suburb in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex. Upon its completion, the 26,241 sq ft house of worship became the tallest ICF structure in the state of Texas. The church tower’s ICF wall plate is at 106 feet. The $13 million project used 41,000 sq ft of ICFs. Overall construction time was 14 months, while the ICF installation took 70 days.
University of Louisville Belknap Village South – Multifamily Winner
Belknap Village South is a 452-bed, 130,000 sq ft residence hall at the University of Louisville. It is interesting to note that the architectural firm solicited design suggestions from the Student Government Association and the Residence Hall Association. It took 75 weeks to build the $38.5 million dormitory. Installation of 65,552 sq ft of Nudura ICFs took 90 days.
Zero Place – Multifamily Low Rise Winner
Zero Place is the winner of the Multifamily Low Rise category. The $11 million, 4-story mixed-use development is in New Paltz, NY.
It took E. Hanson Corp. 70 days to install the 29,000 sq ft of Fox Blocks. Residents of the project's 46 apartments enjoy a zero-energy lifestyle. Geothermal heating/cooling and rooftop solar both make important contributions. The gym’s equipment generates power as well. Residents also enjoy access to solar-powered car and bike-charging stations.
The Future: Growing Interest in ICF Construction
A 2023 report on ICF construction estimates an annual compound growth rate (CAGR) of more than 4% for 2023-2028. Future ICF growth requires awareness and acceptance among designers and contractors. Increasing familiarity with the pluses of ICF construction is key. Demand will also come from developers and home buyers who value resilience. More stringent building codes will also drive demand.
The Pennsylvania Aggregates and Concrete Association (PACA) uses this website to bring concrete professionals and the general public the latest developments impacting the industry. PACA welcomes any questions you may have about your upcoming concrete project. Please contact us at your convenience!