ICF Schools Win Accolades in 2021

Posted on May 13, 2021

School districts have chosen ICF construction for more than two decades. They look to insulated concrete forms for energy savings, resilience and more. Now, two ICF school projects are among the recipients of the 2021 ICF Builder Awards. They are Granbury High School in Texas and Roy Junior High School in Utah.

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ICF Schools: Two Decades of Energy Savings

In 2003, Clearview Elementary in Hanover, PA, became one of the nation’s first ICF schools. The LEED Gold school saves the district approximately $18,000/yr in energy costs.

In 2010, Richardsville Elementary School became the first net-zero school in the country. From Day One, there was no electric bill. To help achieve this feat, designers specified the use of ICFs, solar and geothermal. There are 2,000 solar panels on the roof and 700 more on the parking structure. Geothermal heating and cooling further reduces energy costs. The school’s north-south alignment optimizes the use of natural light. During regular school hours, artificial light is not needed 70 percent of the time. While energy use intensity (EUI) averages 73 in Climate Zone 4, the EUI at Richardsville Elementary is 18.9. To learn more, check out this video: ICFs at Richardsville Elementary School (KY) Provide Energy Efficiency.

In 2012, the Hood River Middle School Science and Music Building opened to students. The LEED-Platinum-rated facility also achieved net-zero status. It is an estimated 55-percent more efficient than the local code required.

Granbury High School Addition

2021 ICF Builder Award - Heavy Commercial

More than two million people call Tarrant County, TX, home. Fort Worth is the county seat. An addition at Granbury High School represents the county’s first foray into ICF school construction. The 130,000 sqft addition cost $49.8 million, and it took 60 weeks to build. It used 50,000 sqft of ICF forms. Installation of the insulated concrete forms took 75 days.

Roy Junior High School

2021 ICF Builder Award - Heavy Commercial

Roy Junior High School is the first ICF school in Utah. Installers erected 121,000 square-feet of ICF walls as high as forty feet. The contractor used 3,000 cubic yards of concrete. The design called for 232 shored openings and 115 corners.

ICFs saved an estimated $1.2 million in construction costs. They also trimmed eight months off construction times. Given the project's success, plans are already in the works to build four more ICF schools in the area.

Advantages That School Districts Value

School referendums demand that projects that are well-conceived at every level. School districts want to approach the voting public with school projects that hold up under scrutiny. That is, those that offer impressive resilience, energy savings and predictable, low-cost maintenance.

Here are some advantages often cited to support the use of ICFs in school construction.

Speed and cost of construction

When planning new schools and additions, school districts often look at four choices. They are ICF, steel stud, tilt-up and concrete block (CMU) construction. Building with ICFs is often the most economical. It is also 10-15 percent faster in many instances.

Energy savings

A money-saving trifecta of continuous insulation, airtightness, and thermal lag reduces energy costs. Savings are often 30 to 50 percent or more. Compare the continuous insulation of an ICF wall with the patchwork defense mounted by a traditional wood-framed wall. There’s always that next thermal bridge or crevice to hunt down.

Also, the advantage of concrete’s thermal lag is frequently understated. When exterior temperatures soar or plunge, exterior concrete walls mitigate indoor temperature changes. This reduces the burden on heating and cooling systems. Nudura graphs the impact of reduced thermal lag compared to traditional wood-frame construction. The graph illustrates how ICFs delay peak indoor temperatures by up to six hours.


ICF manufacturers freely incorporate recycled material into their processes. For example, some use 100-percent recycled polypropylene for the webs. By weight, recycled material may comprise more than half of an ICF form.

Sometimes, ICFs, solar and geothermal combine deliver net-zero or near-net-zero energy performance. Large flat roof surfaces at schools are compatible with rooftop solar installations. The heating and cooling of large indoor spaces increases interest in geothermal energy.

Consider the Lombardo Welcome Center at Millersville University in Pennsylvania. It is net-zero-certified by the International Future Living Institute. Rooftop solar and geothermal wells generate more energy than the facility requires. The insulating capacity of ICF walls contributes to net-zero efficiency.


As this video highlights, ICFs address the safety of students and staff alike. School districts must consider the possibility of natural disasters over many decades. Tornadoes, hurricanes, straight-line winds, and severe hail are unlikely in a given year. The odds increase over a half-a-century or more. ICF construction offers peace-of-mind for decades. It is possible to engineer ICF walls to withstand 300 mph winds. ICF walls also qualify for a four-hour fire rating. Compare that to 45 minutes for traditional wood-frame construction.

More predictable maintenance costs

School budgets and surprise repairs are not a good mix. ICF construction minimizes maintenance expenses for the long haul. Continuous ICF walls resist moisture incursions better than common alternatives.

Insurance savings

Resilience often translates into lower insurance premiums, as much as 80 percent less. Underwriters note reduced fire perils and moisture resistance as reasons for better rates.

Code compliance

Today's building codes are more stringent and complex than ever. As a result, stakeholders seek a simplified path to code compliance. ICFs deliver the R-values and structural integrity demanded by current codes.

About PACA

The Pennsylvania Aggregates and Concrete Association (PACA) maintains the SpecifyConcrete.org website. The goal is to inform industry insiders and the public about the latest developments in the use of concrete. To learn more, please contact us.