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ICF...................Why not?

We discuss the merits of construction with Insulated Concrete Form

In this blog I’m going to discuss the merits of Insulated Concrete Form (or ICF for short) and answer the question as to why one WOULD choose ICF as a form of construction. The anecdote I’ve heard mentioned about ICF many a time, is the “Oh I seen that on Grand Designs (add another TV Show), it looks like a great idea” followed by a swift change of subject. Many people when discussing different forms of construction such as traditional, timber frame etc seem to skirt over ICF without giving it a taught. In my experience this is because people are generally conservative and are not comfortable with trying things that re perceived to be new.

For me ICF has a number of qualities that set it apart, and when these are compared and contrasted, the question that comes to mind for me is Why wouldn’t one use ICF.

The Qualities

The individual qualities I like about ICF are that it is a form of construction that allows for very easy and at the same time very high quality control, because the results are so visible when it comes to the insulation detailing, the warm bridge detailing and the air tightness detailing.

There are no hidden short cuts that a shoddy sub-contractor can take and as an architect, it means it is very easy for me to inspect and know it’s being done correctly.

Also because of its innovative building methods and programmability, which relies solely upon one specialist sub-contractor who generally in the main supplies his own scaffolding and all materials, this leads to savings on time and less duplication of tasks, which is always a bonus in the building process.

Also for the aforementioned reasons, there is less wastage because of less time delays and less mistakes and all round this leads to a safer work environment, which in itself is most advantageous. An ICF block falling on one’s foot is going to be almost unnoticeable when compared with a 4 inch solid block.

Another unknown fact about ICF, is that in most instances ICF sub-contractors gather up all waste off cuts and remove same from site, from where they return this ‘waste’ to the ICF supplier who in turn recycles the graphite bead insulation easily into the next production cycle along with block ties etc.

The Cost Question

The most recent rates supplied by our Quantity Surveyor (April 2023) notes the following;

  • ICF Walls / m2 = €160 ex VAT

  • Cavity Construction with Injected Foam Insulation / m2 = €158 ex VAT

Which is a difference of 1% in costs, however our experience is that for the reasons mentioned above this is a saving not worth making.

All in all, a form of construction that is faster, cleaner and more efficient leads one to ask the question Why not use ICF?

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