June 14, 2018

ICF Homes: Considerations & Design Ideas

Many of today’s new home builders want energy-efficient, durable, healthy, comfortable and low-maintenance houses. These parameters for a new home have sparked an increasing interest in wall systems constructed with insulated concrete form (ICF).  Insulated concrete form wall systems are energy-efficient, disaster-, fire-, and pest-resistant, noise-reducing, healthy, and easy to maintain.

ICF Homes are a Good Investment

Insulated concrete form homes are also an excellent investment. An ICF house may cost slightly more to build than a wood-frame house, but an ICF house quickly recovers the initial costs with lower utility, maintenance and repair expenses. In fact, when the increased construction costs of ICF are added to a mortgage and the energy savings are factored in, the monthly cost to homeowners are typically no more than $15-30 per month. In some cases, monthly costs can actually be less than a standard home.

Insulated concrete form homes are not only solid, comfortable, and energy-efficient, but aesthetically pleasing. In fact, an ICF home can look just like a house built with conventional wood framing.

The Design Flexibility of ICF Homes

Another advantage of ICF construction is they provide more design flexibility than wood construction, making it easier to add complex architectural contours and curves and other design features. There are many design options when building a new ICF home.

Considerations and Design Ideas for ICF Homes

A future homeowner of an ICF house should consider several important design ideas for saving time, money, and limiting construction waste.

  • A critical consideration when designing an ICF home is choosing an experienced contractor with practical field installation experience. The contractor must have a complete understanding of the ICF method specific to the manufacture of the product. An experienced, high-quality contractor saves time and money and ensures proper construction of a new ICF home.
  • To reduce on-site labor and save money, the design of the wall heights, lengths, and position of doors and windows should be optimized for the ICF system. An ICF contractor should strive to minimize cutting and customization by carefully planning and designing the ICF home.
  • The design of an ICF home should carefully consider the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) on its exterior wall. Through-wall penetrations in exterior walls can include gas, electric, plumbing, water, communications, and air conditioning. It is essential to install through-wall conduit and MEP systems  before the concrete pour. However, through-wall penetrations less than 10-inches in diameter can be made through Bautex Block ICF even after the pour.
  • To best coordinate with electrical, plumbing, HVAC, and other trades, a good contractor will determine before construction begins when these systems will be installed in the wall. Effective communication with subcontractors will streamline the project and save time and money.
  • As with any wall system, simpler exterior wall designs are the most cost-efficient when building an ICF home.  A home with fewer corners, turns, or special angles in the foundation, walls, and roof will be faster, easier and cheaper to build. Also, a simple front-to-back gable roof is less expensive than a complex multiple-pitch hip roof.
  • Because ICF walls are thick, some up to 14 inches thick, designing with ICF may mean giving up interior space to the wall. Another consideration is ICF may require door and window frames to be extended substantially to accumulate the thicker walls. Screen-grid ICF systems that are 10-inches deep provide the best balance between structural capacity, insulation, weight and cost of construction for most building types and climate zones.
  • The local climate is an important consideration when designing an energy-efficient ICF home. The design of an ICF must take into account the home’s orientation on the site, room and window placement, ventilation, and shading.  
  • The Bautex Wall System is a composite insulated concrete form wall system that offers tremendous design flexibility. Whether designing a commercial building or private home, Bautex Blocks have the aesthetic freedom to construct both complex and simple designs, including arches and radiused walls. Also, the concrete grid system formed by Bautex Blocks is a very efficient use of concrete for most one, two and three story buildings. The Bautex Block is a versatile concrete form that is strong and lightweight. It can be quickly and easily modified in the field to meet any design specification. The Bautex Block is also energy-efficient, healthy, and fire-, moisture- and, disaster-resistant.

Designing and building a house with insulated concrete forms creates a durable, comfortable, energy-efficient, and aesthetically pleasing home. Two important ideas a future homeowner should consider when design their ICF home is to choose an experienced ICF contractor and prepare a detailed plan before beginning construction. A properly executed plan for building an ICF home will save time, and construction costs.