3 Reasons To Avoid Building Schools With ICF

schools with ICF

Insu­lat­ing concrete forms – or ICF for short – are an increas­ing­ly popular option, for walls valued for their ability to boost a building’s overall energy effi­cien­cy. Yet that doesn’t mean that that ICFs are the best choice for all new con­struc­tion projects – espe­cial­ly those that, like schools, must be conducted on a rel­a­tive­ly tight budget. If you would like to learn more about why ICF should generally be avoided for the con­struc­tion of municipal school buildings, read on. This article will discuss three of ICF’s primary disadvantages. 

Insulating Concrete Forms 

Before delving into the reasons why ICF may not be the best choice for schools, it will help to provide at least a basic intro­duc­tion into this type of building material. At the heart of an ICF system are preformed hollow panels made out of either expanded or extruded poly­styrene. This foam acts not only to give a wall its form, but also doubles as a rigid form of thermal insu­la­tion. Once assembled, these panels are installed with rebar and then filled with struc­tur­al concrete. 

ICF will drive up the construction costs of the school. 

The effi­cien­cy benefits are tempered by the much greater expense involved in con­struct­ing with ICF. Such expenses are tied not only to the greater number of materials needed to build an ICF wall, but also to the com­plex­i­ty of its con­struc­tion. This generally increases the amount of time needed to complete the building project, with con­struc­tion crews needed to be on site for a sig­nif­i­cant­ly greater number of hours. 

ICF will make it more difficult to expand the school’s physical footprint. 

The majority of schools will find them­selves facing growing numbers of students as time goes on. Such growth may even­tu­al­ly neces­si­tate the division of a single school into two or more campuses. Yet before that time comes, the school will likely find itself having to deal with a vastly inflated student body. To accom­mo­date such growth, many schools choose to remodel their existing floor plan. It is also common to open up exterior walls in order build addi­tion­al classrooms. 

Such expansion, while never easy, remains a feasible option for schools framed with studs – and even simple concrete masonry units. ICF, however, makes this kind of remod­el­ing project vastly more difficult. For one thing, ICF walls tend to be much thicker than tra­di­tion­al­ly framed walls, making them more difficult to cut through. This is exac­er­bat­ed by the fact that the remod­el­ing con­trac­tor will have to utilize saws capable of cutting through the poly­styrene forms, the concrete inside of them, and the rebar used to reinforce the concrete. For this reason, expanding a school built using ICF almost always involves greater expense and longer con­struc­tion times. 

ICF increases your vulnerability to termites and other invasive insects. 

Another sig­nif­i­cant drawback of ICF walls is that they have been asso­ci­at­ed with a higher frequency of termite infes­ta­tions. It is believed that this is tied to struc­tur­al defi­cien­cies within the ICF walls. In other words, hairline cracks, voids, and other gaps in the concrete itself allow these insects to find pathways into the building, where they soon begin feasting on vul­ner­a­ble wood. In order to prevent this from happening, it becomes necessary to implement special barrier systems during con­struc­tion. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, such systems can ulti­mate­ly drive up both the cost and the con­struc­tion time of an ICF building.

A new solution

The inno­v­a­tive Bautex Wall System has been designed to give schools the benefits of ICF con­struc­tion without the drawbacks. Learn more here.

If you are planning to build a new school and are looking for an expe­ri­enced architect, here is a directory of Texas-based archi­tects with expe­ri­ence in designing schools.