ICF Sustainability

Aug 6, 2019

Insulating concrete forms can provide a wide range of environmental benefits – not least Passivhaus levels of insulation and airtightness. The Insulating Concrete Formwork Association (ICFA) identifies the key areas of consideration for specifiers.

Thermal performance

Airtightness and thermal performance and are central to the environmental performance of Insulating Concrete Formwork (ICF). ICF structures offer low ‘U’ Values from 0.30W/m²K down to 0.10W/m²K – ideal for Passivhaus. Dense concrete is the structural core with layers of insulation ensuring “thermal mass” benefits are obtained, the building is warm inside when it is cold out-doors in winter and vice versa in summer.

ICF out-performs the current Building Regulations and can easily meet the requirements of the Code for Sustainable Homes Star Level 3. When used in conjunction with other sustainability supplements, such as ground source heat pumps, heat exchangers, wind turbines, and photovoltaics it can meet Code Star Level 6 – Carbon Neutral.

Airtightness

By eliminating gaps and draughts, ICFs create airtight structures that maximise the efficiency of mechanical heating, cooling and ventilation systems. This can result in healthier living and working environments for building occupants.

Materials and waste

A criticism that has been aimed at ICF is that its principal components – concrete and expanded polystyrene – are derived from fossil fuels. In defence of this, only 0.1 per cent of a barrel of oil is used to make polystyrene. More importantly, for every litre of oil used to make EPS insulation, the product can save around 200 litres in reduced heating requirements. ICF products also contribute to a proven reduction in waste compared to conventional cavity-block construction.

Life-cycle assessment

Life-cycle assessments comparing ICFs to other building materials show that they outperform these in nearly every region and type of construction. Studies indicate that in-use operation, including heating and cooling, account for the majority of a building’s environmental impact over its lifetime (up to 90 per cent). ICF’s ability to combine in-situ concrete walls with permanent EPS formwork maximises airtightness and thermal efficiency, resulting in significantly reduced energy/environmental costs and long-life expectancy.

Reproduced by kind permission of NUDURA and Architecture Today
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