We all want to do our bit for the environment but generally we are fearful that it is going to be more expensive

. Property can be built very quickly using ICF as a method of build and so build costs are no more expensive than traditional builds. Additionally, the running costs of ICF builds is much lower due to its ability to keep warm air out during the summer and warm air in during the cooler months. Hence cooling and heating bills are greatly reduced.

ICF - Introduction
Insulated concrete formwork (ICF) is a flexible construction system that enables fast delivery of creative, flexible buildings. The system uses cast in-situ concrete between two layers of insulation. This presentation provides a brief overview of the ICF system.

ICF is a simple, composite application of straight forward, but effective, construction technologies. Specially developed insulating formwork is erected on site, and then remains in place after the concrete has been placed in it. From this point on, the formwork provides secondary function to its primary role of shaping the newly placed concrete, as it provides a robust thermal insulation layer that performs for the lifetime of the building. ICF systems use either lightweight twin walled expanded polystyrene (EPS), or extruded polystyrene panels (XPS), or blocks. These are built on site to create formwork walls. Once in place, the formwork is filled with the ready mixed concrete. Walls one storey high can be completed in one day, and will be ready to take the roof or floor construction the following day. Once the concrete has cured, there's no need to remove the formwork. It stays in place where it is, providing complete thermal insulation for the finished building. The interlocking polystyrene blocks can give a uniform, smooth surface ready to take most forms of direct internal finish or external cladding or render finishing. ICF has been used by many architects across North America and Continental Europe for many years. The fast track, low energy benefits of designing buildings using ICF are now more widely understood, and specified, by architects within the UK.

ICF - Sustainable architecture
Energy efficiency
ICF easily exceeds the energy efficiency requirements of part L of the Building Regulations. The systems EPS/XPS form work insulation with ready mixed concrete provide a robust composite building performing to U-values in the range of 0.10 - 0.30 W/m2, to enable construction up to the code for sustainable homes level 5 and 6.

Thermal mass

Maximum exploitation of the buildings thermal mass potential can be arrived at by removing the inner layer of insulation to fully expose the concrete surface or by substituting the inner leaf of the formwork with cement particle board, or other non-insulating shuttering materials.

Waste and recycling
ICF construction generates a minimum amount of waste on site. At the end of the buildings useful life, all of the components used in the ICF structure itself can be recycled.

Local deliveries: Less transport distances
Using ready-mixed concrete from local suppliers will reduce transport distances. With formwork being the other only component, fewer deliveries to site will keep the project miles to a minimum and thus help reduce the overall carbon footprint of the building.

The formwork is made from expanded polystyrene (EPS) or extruded polystyrene (XPS). EPS and XPS are thermoplastic polymers which do not contain CFCs or HCFCs. The small proportion of pentane blowing agent used in the manufacturing process may be recovered or readily decomposes in the atmosphere without any adverse impact on the ozone layer.

Long life
A key factor to take into account when examining the long-term sustainability of an ICF building is its durability over time. An ICF building should greatly exceed the 60-year period frequently taken as normal life span of a building in comparison studies.

ICF - Designer, client, developer and occupier benefits
Speed of build
ICF is suitable for large volume or mass scale building projects. The formwork protects wet concrete, enabling building to go ahead year round, even in wet, windy and cold conditions. the fast construction of a watertight building envelope allows following trades quick internal access on site, keeping the build on track for a speedy completion.

Fire resistance

All ICF systems have appropriate fire certification. Fire retardant is applied to all EPS components used to create formwork. As concrete itself cannot burn or be set on fire, its inherent fire resistance more than meets any current fire regulation requirements. Together the ICF components create a safe environment from fire.

Acoustic performance
The formwork used in ICF acts as an inherent sound absorption system, significantly reducing impact sound, while the solid mass of the concrete core of any ICF is ideal for party wall construction where the concrete core may be up to 300mm thick. All tests with ICF systems taken to date have passed the Building Regulation requirements within the UK.

Low running cost
Due to the high level of inherent insulation of the system, energy –efficient ICF buildings cost less to heat, leading to reduced running expenses over the life of the building and hence less emitted CO2.

Flood damage
ICF buildings are resistant to water damage due to the non-absorbent nature of the insulation and seamless concrete envelope. They are robust against impact from waterborne debris.

Air leakage
ICF construction is capable of providing a low level of air leakage through the duel impact of sealing effect of the concrete pours and the low permeability of the insulating formwork. This combination provides a highly effective air barrier. The simplicity, robustness and the stiffness of an ICF structure will help ensure that the integrity of the air barrier is maintained over the life of the building.

Ease of accommodating services
The ICF system allows the installation of the conduit, cabling and ducting for the services required within the wall space of the empty forms prior to pouring the concrete. This not only saves time, but also makes for a very efficient method of construction. Alternatively, services can be accommodated by chasing the inner wall of the polystyrene after the concrete has cured and specialist tools are available for this method.

ICF - Building with ICF: What the architects need to know
Design Knowledge

One of the key benefits of ICF as a form of construction is its simplicity. Most architects find the system, with its few components and modular forms, easy to work with.

The number of storeys, or the height of the building, is limited only by the structural design and local legislation. However, whilst buildings using a modified form of this construction have been constructed up to 40 storeys in North America, it is normally accepted that most forms available are appropriate up to seven storeys in the UK. Robust buildings made with EPS have stood for many years in Australia, North America and Continental Europe without any record of failure.

Wall thickness usually varies according to the building type, and use performance required. The structural design will determine the size of the concrete core ranging from 100mm to over 300mm in width, while the two leaves of insulation can vary from 100mm to 300mm for both leaves depending on the thermal insulation required. Total wall thicknesses will thus vary from between 240mm to 600mm. In some circumstances, a thicker leaf of ICF formwork may be specified for the external wall to give added insulation.

ICF provides an ideal construction solution for basements, used in conjunction with waterproof membranes.

Upper floors
As a building rises using ICF, the floor structure is normally built into the wall as the construction proceeds. This provides a solid connection between the two building elements.

ICF - Building Elements Silver block

ICF - Building design with insulated concrete formwork
ICF is appropriate for any building form, with use ranging from houses and basements to commercial, retail, industrial , transportation, leisure, education or health buildings of up to seven storeys in height. The system enables delivery of quick build, low energy buildings that meet both client needs and visual architectural integrity.

Design potential
The potential to express innovative architectural shapes is available through the plentiful range of ICF shapes and components.

Whatever the buildings use, arches, bay windows and doors can be easily designed in to the building envelope and internal walls using ICF, eliminating the need to specify specialist products, thus reducing time and cost.

Architects can specify any form of external finish such as masonry, brick slips, render, or weather boarding. Plaster or dry lining can be applied directly to the formwork.

So now you have a good idea of how and why building with ICF makes sense. We can offer this service across Spain so you can get your ideal property done by your design. If this is of interest please email : lydnem@gmail.com with your contact details and we can progress your enquiry. We also have ready built property in Benissa on the Costa Blanca North and inland in Penaguila starting from just €189,000 for a three bed two bed property. Email lydnem@gmail.com now for more information.

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