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.