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.