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.