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  Insulating Concrete Forms Provide Benefits In A Wide Range Of Applications

Increasingly, architects, contractors and builders are faced with growing demands to simultaneously improve performance while reducing costs and meeting green standards. Similarly, homeowners and commercial building tenants are more attuned to energy efficiencies, cost factors and sustainability, as well as the comfort factors of the homes and buildings they occupy.

From design and construction all the way to the end user, Insulating Concrete Forms (ICFs) deliver benefits throughout a project’s lifecycle, from requiring fewer materials and a smaller, more agile building crew to delivering great sound attenuation, insulation and low energy costs to the occupants. As an alternative to conventional construction, ICFs provide structure, insulation, vapor and air barriers, sound barriers, and fastening strips while minimizing costs and maximizing efficiencies.

Combining multiple steps that are required in conventional wood frame construction into a streamlined process, ICFs are time and cost-efficient while providing flexibility in design and strength in performance. Modular units of ICFs are dry-stacked to create the walls and foundation of a building, rebar is positioned and the concrete is poured. Structurally, ICF construction provides fire-resistance, high wind-resistance and the ability to withstand seismic activity; from an occupant perspective, ICF results in more comfortable buildings with stable temperatures, less noise and improved indoor air quality.

Ease Of Use Plus Strength And Durability
As a starting point for energy-efficient construction, ICFs bring proven value to the whole spectrum of residential and commercial buildings; homes, hotels, schools, offices, superstores, warehouses, mixed-use buildings and more, ICFs provide architects and builders with a viable alternative to conventional wood, concrete or steel stud construction.

Because ICF construction requires less material, fewer steps and less labor, costs are reduced and projects are finished more quickly without compromising quality. As opposed to conventional concrete construction, ICF walls lay out faster and forming plates do not need to be removed. The concrete cures within the optimized curing environment created by the form and continues to cure, even in the case of inclement weather. As a result, no additional heating is needed to cure the concrete and the cure process results in greater strength; a finished demising wall built with ICF is also a structural load bearing wall which is, on average, 25% stronger than conventional concrete walls.

Superior Energy Efficiency
ICF construction contributes to green building objectives, frequently helps projects attain LEED® accreditation, and factors in to significant energy cost savings for home and building owners.

Combining insulated panels and concrete, ICFs form a mass wall that blocks air infiltration, making a notably measurable difference in performance. Whereas buildings constructed with conventional methods typically allow for unwanted air infiltration, resulting in the need for air to be re-heated or re-cooled frequently throughout the day, ICF-built buildings offer improved energy efficiency by restricting this unwanted airflow.

ICFs also contribute to energy efficiency by appropriately adding thermal mass to optimize heat absorption and thermal lag. Unlike traditional materials such as timber, ICFs provide thermal mass that functions like a thermal battery, absorbing heat to keep interior spaces cool when temperatures rise and releasing heat when needed to warm up the same interior space, when the outside temperature decreases. Because ICFs have an insulated concrete core with a high thermal mass, they are able to moderate indoor temperature fluctuations to beneficially reduce the amount of heating or cooling needed. As a result, buildings constructed with ICF produce a smaller carbon footprint and reduce greenhouse gas emissions; whereas heating and cooling can account for up to 70% of a home’s energy costs, ICFs require 44% less energy to heat and 32% less energy to cool.

Benefits For The End-User
Though a homeowner or building occupant may not be able to identify the structural differences between ICF construction and conventional methods from the outside, they will notice the benefits. From improved indoor air quality to minimized exposure to pollutants and allergens and resistance to mold and mildew, ICFs contribute to environmentally sensitive design and construction as well as a positive user experience for those who occupy the space. For homes and buildings where noise is a factor, ICF offers superior sound insulation, again contributing to a more comfortable, usable space.

Proven to withstand weather extremes, ICF construction is also a smart solution when building in areas that are prone to natural disasters such as hurricanes and tornadoes. The strong foundation and walls of an ICF-built home can withstand the impact of wind-blown debris from a category 5 hurricane. Plus, ICF products, such as those available through ARXX Corporation, can meet FEMA shelter performance standards, proving how ICF not only protects property damage but also saves lives.

Award-Winning Applications
Hood River Middle School in Hood River, Oregon recently claimed the Gold award for commercial application from the Insulating Concrete Form Association (ICFA), which acknowledges projects that demonstrate exceptional achievements – including energy savings of over 50% – using ICF construction as the cornerstone. ARXX Corporation, the ICF manufacturer for the project, provided a solution that met the project’s design and functional goals. The building uses ICF with brick veneer and precast accents to complement the Jacobethan style of the adjacent National Historic Register school building. ICF products from ARXX were preferred by the architects and builders of the Music and Science Building, the latest addition to the Hood River Middle School campus, for a number of reasons. Sustainable design and construction was paramount in the selection of materials and methods as the building itself plays an integral role in the school’s sustainability curriculum. Moreover, the design of the building envelope needed to achieve the highest degree of thermal efficiency to moderate Hood River’s seasonal temperature swings. In addition to the excellent thermal mass and thermal insulation provided by the insulated concrete formwork, the ICF walls also provide exceptional acoustic insulation. Since part of the building is devoted to music classes at the middle school, the soundproof qualities of the building materials were a main consideration; ICF construction provided an exceptional sound barrier for the building’s users.

A Smart Solution For Architects, Builders And Users
Saving time and labor while providing an energy-efficient solution that brings value to users, insulating concrete forms are an alternative to standard foundations and walls that is worth considering. From residential to commercial and a variety of uses in between, ICF systems are reliable, durable and adaptable.

Article contributed by ARXX Corporation. ARXX offers a variety of high-performance ICF products. To learn more about the services offered and products from ARXX please visit www.arxx.com.

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