ICF Construction for Homeowners in Georgia
Homeowners and ICF Construction:
Prospective new homeowners - we would like the opportunity to demonstrate to you how you can acquire all of the features that you have always longed for in a new home, but thought to be unattainable:
- superior energy efficiency
- resistance to virtually any natural or man-made disaster
- excellent sound insulation
- healthy living environment
- environmentally-sound, and more...
Yes, all of these highly-valued home attributes can be yours in a single building system – Fox Blocks Insulating Concrete Forms (ICFs); and, because these assets greatly impact your well-being (guarding your health & protecting the lives of your family members from natural or man-made disasters), household budget (lowering your energy costs – by up to 70%, and your maintenance costs), and your overall living comfort (greatly reducing the levels of allergens, dust, and other airborne agents), should be considered indispensable. And, you can have all this for about the same price as a 2X6 wood-frame house.
It’s time to kick the wood habit in home construction as wood-frame homes will never deliver the critical home qualities listed above at a level commensurate with ICF structures.
- See the Fox Block White Paper - Understanding the True Cost of Building with ICF
Wood-frame construction by its very nature cannot satisfy the demands of 21st Century homeowners (and home builders). Stick-built houses are a food source for termites and mold, highly susceptible to moisture damage, provide a nesting place for mice and other rodents, make an excellent fuel source for fires, cannot survive high-wind tornadoes/hurricanes or floods, and allow a high level of energy loss due to high air infiltration, inadequate (and constantly degrading) insulation, and low thermal mass. Why do you never see ICF and other structural concrete houses featured on HGTV and other home improvement shows? Because ICF homes don’t require major renovations every fifty years ( replacement of load-bearing beams, floor joists, and walls due to severe damage/decomposition caused by moisture, mold, and/or termites). The life of an ICF home is measured in centuries instead of decades.
Which one of these homes was built with ICF?
With the huge advancements in ICF technology over the years, it is virtually impossible to tell!
PS: It's the bottom one....
WHY THE GROWING TREND TOWARD ICF HOMES?
Why are more people building their new homes using insulating concrete forms (ICF) these days? To start-off, today’s new construction home shopper is more sophisticated and better informed than ever before in history. Using the vast resources of the internet and home & garden expos and TV shows, these prospective new homeowners are able to rapidly come-up to speed with the capabilities of the latest building materials and techniques. In addition, these consumers are in search of building methods that will save them significant dollars in energy costs, protect them from nature’s awesome (and often times unpredictable) forces, and provide their families with a more comfortable and safer living environment. More and more people are looking beyond the initial curb appeal, the chef’s kitchens, and soaring ceilings of traditionally-built homes to realize that they can have their cake and eat it, too with ICF construction at a minimal to almost no increase in cost.
To find out more on Insulating Concrete Forms Benefits - see the Video below:
What are the most prevailing factors that have motivated new home buyers to make-the-switch to ICF homes?
Elimination of the Stigmas Associated with Concrete Houses:
Homebuyers have learned that the ICF building system has overcome the stigmas that concrete houses are expensive, institutional looking and lacking in curb appeal, contain minimal insulation, and are very resistant to home remodeling and decorative changes; on the contrary, new homes built with ICF are only about 5% higher in cost than their stick-built equivalents, but the savings – 50 to 70% in heating/cooling costs, lower insurance premiums, and reduced maintenance costs - reaped from building with ICFs more than offset this cost difference.
Understand the True Cost of Building with Insulating Concrete Forms
A recent White Paper from ProudGreenHome.com, sponsored by Fox Blocks ICF, looks at the benefits and cost analysis of building with Insulating Concrete Forms. As building codes demand homes with tighter building envelopes and continuous insulation, home builders and consumers are looking for building strategies that deliver that performance without paying a premium. That's why homes built with insulated concrete forms are becoming a popular choice in many climates...
homes can be made to look identical to their stick-built or CMU counterparts
walls can accommodate all finishes (and more) that can be applied to
stick-built walls. ICF walls incorporate EPS panels, the best performing
insulating material on the market, which can easily be increased in thickness
to furnish virtually any desired insulation R rating; and, with the use of ICF concrete roofing products or other highly-engineered roofing systems,
ICF structures can provide longer roofing spans which permit the use of
easily-movable, non-loadbearing interior walls (for future remodeling) made
from wooden or steel (best for fire safety) studs. Also, decorative changes can
be made as easily with ICF walls as with stick-built versions because all ICF
interior walls are covered with a minimal layer of ½ inch drywall. (Please
refer to the Residential Project
Gallery to view some homes built with Fox Block ICFs)
The Quest for Greener Home Construction
Consumers are much more environmentally conscious these days and are looking for houses that provide big savings in energy costs while minimizing the impact on our environment. ICF construction provides the answer to these needs and does it in a big way.
Through the combined forces of:
- high R value
- continuous (not interrupted by energy-bleeding wooden studs) EPS insulation
- the thermal mass of concrete
- and the ultra-low air infiltration resulting from a concrete wall sandwiched between two panels of EPS
ICF homeowners can attain energy savings of up to 70% when compared to a contemporary stick-built home of comparable size built to code. Using the Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index, a nationally-recognized system for inspecting and calculating a home’s energy performance, new homeowners can have their (fully-built) houses inspected, tested, and rated by a certified Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) rater. Using a contemporary wood frame home as the reference (designated as 100 on the HERS Index) against which a new home will be rated, ICF homes typically score in the 30 to 50 range meaning that these homes will be from 70% to 50%, respectively more energy efficient than their distant relative stick-built equivalent. The lower the HERS score equates to a more energy-efficient home. Wood frame homes can be made to be more energy efficient but only after some costly modifications consisting of the addition of higher R-value continuous insulation and the use of spray foam in the many typically unsealed areas characteristic of wood-frame construction.
This ICF home below received a HERS rating of 45!
The Need for Stronger, More Resilient Structures
The frequency and increasing strength of natural disasters over the past 10 years is prompting new home buyers to seek an alternative building method that is capable of producing disaster-resistant structures (DRS). They have witnessed – in person or via electronic media - the wide-scale devastation that results when nature’s forces collide with houses constructed using traditional building methods such as wood frame and concrete blocks).
ICF homes with the fortress-like strength of reinforced concrete walls and roofs can withstand high Richter scale earthquakes; the ultra-high wind speeds of tornadoes (in excess of 250 mph) and Category 5 & greater hurricanes/typhoons; wildfires; and floods/storm surges. These DRS houses can also stand-up to man-made disasters resulting from fire, vehicle impact, gunfire, and explosions. Please visit our Building Disaster Resistant Structures section for a more detailed description of resilient construction.
WHAT PROOF IS THERE THAT ICF HOMES OUTPERFORM OTHER BUILDING SYSTEMS?
As a prospective new construction homeowner, you have a lot of building systems – stick-built (wood frame), concrete block, structural insulated panels (SIPS), removable form (poured) walls, and insulating concrete forms (ICF) – from which to choose to build the structural shell of your new house.
To complicate this selection process, many of the manufacturers and dealers for these building systems tout their products as being the highest achievers in select categories of home performance. However, if you look at the hard evidence that has been derived from real world testing by the most severe of nature’s forces (EF-5 tornadoes & Category 5 hurricanes, wildfires, floods/storm surges, and earthquakes) and man-made disasters (fire, automobile impact, explosion, & firearms); and, when you consider the vast amounts of data from home energy audits (HERS rating systems and others) and health and living comfort rating scores, it is clear that only one of these systems has been able to achieve superior marks in virtually every performance category of home construction: Insulating Concrete Forms.
Since the inception of the ICF building system in the late 1960s, this ‘Real-World Testing’ of ICF home construction has been accomplished through repeated exposures to both natural disasters (tornadoes, hurricanes/typhoons, wildfires, earthquakes, and floods & storm surges) and man-made forces(fires, explosions, vehicle impact, gunfire). Please visit our Building Disaster Resistant Structures section for more detailed information and photos that pertain to Resilient Construction. It is vital to understand that the core of all ICF walls is steel reinforced, solid concrete and when joined with concrete floors and roofs into a single, monolithic structure constitutes the only structural shell that is capable of withstanding the most severe of nature’s forces.
IBHS Research Center's Demonstration Video
This video by the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety shows the difference between a standard/traditionally built home and a Fortified Home.
Remarkable Energy Efficiency:
ICF homes consistently score in the 30 to 50 range of the Homes Energy Rating System (HERS) index. (See the discussion about the HERS index above). In October 2014 while attending an ICF training course, I made the acquaintance of another ICF dealer Daniel Keeslar of Insulated Concrete Forms & More OK, LLC. Based out of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Daniel has recently completed the construction of a 3000 sq.ft. ICF home that achieved a HERS Index score of 39 and an average heating and cooling cost of $30/month. These super energy efficient structural building shells are achieved through the superior insulating capabilities of Insulating Concrete Forms and the spray-foam used in sealing the roof, the thermal mass of the concrete walls, and the extremely low air infiltration attributed to the ICF EPS panels working in tandem with a concrete wall core. The achievement of the 39 HERS rating was aided by the use of a geothermal heating/cooling system.
The air infiltration of this home (as verified by a blower-door test conducted by a HERS rater) was lower than 0.09 air exchanges per hour (ACH); when comparing this number to 1.75 to 3 ACH for the typical new wood frame home and considering that air infiltration accounts for up to 40% of the energy losses of a wood structure home, you can quickly see why stick-built homes are leaky, their occupants experience uncomfortable drafts throughout the home, and they are considerably more expensive to heat and cool when compared to equivalent ICF structures. Even more alarming is the fact that the leakiness of the wood frame home increases as the home ages. After some years, the air infiltration of newly-built wood frame homes typically degrades to a level of 5 to 10 ACH as the wood shrinks, sealants deteriorate, and fiberglass insulation compresses after exposure to excessive moisture. Old wood frame homes fall in the dismal range of 10 to 20 ACH.
Numerous Air Leaks in typical homes
Source of energy loss in a wood frame building*
Energy Losses reduced 30-45% just by using an ICF for walls*
* Source: Portland Cement Association Technology Briefs
Healthier and More Comfortable Living Environment:
Fox Blocks ICF homes provide a much healthier and more comfortable living environment than any other building system on the market.
- Indoor air quality is much improved in ICF homes. This is due to the amazingly low air infiltration which filters-out allergens and many other harmful agents that affect the occupants’ health. Fox Blocks walls will not rot and do not promote the growth of mold or mildew. Fox Blocks walls are a barrier to pests. The solid concrete walls of the Fox Blocks building system do not provide any cavities/chambers in which mice and other rodents can nest, and EPS foam and concrete are not a food source for termites and other insect pests.
- Fox Blocks ICF walls are a barrier to pests. The solid concrete walls of the Fox Blocks building system do not provide any cavities/chambers in which mice and other rodents can nest, and ICF panels and concrete are not a food source for termites and other insect pests. Look closely at the upper-left side of the bottom of this wood-frame wall – this unwanted visitor who fell down the inside wall of this home will soon be adding his own ‘fragrance’ to the house’s interior airspace. These kind of nesting and potential entrapment spaces for mice and other rodents don’t exist in ICF houses.”
- Consistent indoor temperatures. The extremely low air infiltration of Fox Blocks walls protects against drafts or hot/cold spots inside the home.
- Reduced noise levels. Fox Blocks walls provide a 50% reduction in noise transfer compared to wood-frame walls.
FINANCIAL INCENTIVES FOR BUILDING WITH ICFs:
New homeowners who decide to build with insulating concrete forms will also discover that there are numerous financial incentives available for building more responsibly. Many of these incentives are associated with the vast improvement in energy efficiency that results from building with ICFs. Other benefits are derived from the new home’s resistance to natural and man-made disasters in the way of substantial savings in the cost of homeowner’s insurance, especially if the new home meets the requirements of the Fortified for Safer Living Program in coastal and high-wind areas.
See more on ‘Fortified for Safer Living’ on our Building Hurricane Resistant Structures section. Finally, major savings can be reaped from the significantly reduced Total Cost of Building Ownership inherent with ICF structures.
Energy Efficiency Incentives:
- Energy-Efficient Mortgages: An Energy Efficient Mortgage (EEM) is a mortgage that credits the home’s energy efficiency in the home loan. In purchasing a new energy-efficient home, it equates to allowing the borrower a greater debt-to-income ratio which would allow the home buyer the ability to purchase a higher quality home due to the lower monthly costs of heating and cooling the home. The U.S. federal government supports these loans by insuring them through Federal Housing Authority (FHA) or Veterans Affairs (VA) programs. EEMs typically require a HERS energy rating to provide the lender with the monthly energy savings and the value of the energy efficiency measures - known as the Energy Savings Value. Please access the Energy Star Energy Efficient Mortgages website and the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) website for more in-depth coverage of EEMs and guidelines for qualifying for these mortgages.
- Federal Tax Credits for Consumer Energy Efficiency: Though not directly associated with ICF construction, if the new home incorporates an Energy Star certified geothermal heat pump, solar energy system, and/or small (residential) wind turbine, the homeowner can qualify for a tax credit equal to 30% of the cost of the new equipment with no upper limit. If the homeowner is applying for an Energy Efficient Mortgage, the use of this energy efficient equipment in the home will help in further lowering the HERS Index score on your home in order to achieve a higher overall monthly energy savings.
- State and Local Programs: State and local energy programs offer a variety of credits, incentives, and rebates for energy-efficient construction. Please refer to the Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy (DSIRE) for the state in which the new home would be built. This site also lists incentives offered by local electric utility companies in the selected state.
Resilient Construction Incentives:
- Under the auspices of the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IIBHS or IBHS), the insurance industry has taken a leadership role in promoting effective actions to strengthen homes, businesses, and communities against natural and man-made disasters. These insurers are rewarding owners of disaster-resistant houses with lower premiums; and, in those areas that are more susceptible to high winds and other natural hazards, homeowners have earned premium discounts as high as 80% when the completed home was certified as Fortified for Safer Living by an IBHS Fortified inspector. According to the ‘ICF 101’ article that appeared in the July/August 2015 edition of the ICF Builder Magazine, the homeowner reaped an $18,000 annual savings for his wind and general liability insurance due to credits earned from using ICF construction. His annual insurance premium is $2,200 which is “less than he pays for a wood frame guest house across the street that’s less than half the size.”)
Total Lifetime Operating Costs Incentives:
- Most people are not aware that the Total Lifetime Operating Costs (TLOC) for most buildings (60 to 95%) far surpass the initial purchase price (First-Cost) of the building (5 to 40%). Of course, this fact of home ownership is never mentioned by those in the traditional construction industry because they know that the “after-the-honeymoon” costs of a traditionally-built home will take a disproportionate bite out of the homeowner’s budget each month. ICF homes excel in the TLOC arena as they accrue remarkable savings in energy costs; routine home maintenance (including the addition of more insulation and sealants (in wood frame homes) that have been compromised by moisture, mold, and the constant contraction and expansion of joints due to climatic changes) and major repair/renovation costs resulting from both structural and non-structural damages caused by water, mold, and termites. The lifespan of an ICF home is measured in centuries in contrast to decades for a wood-frame home (before it will require major repairs/renovations).
Additional Resources for Homeowners Considering Building with ICF
RESIDENTIAL BUILDING GALLERY: Please click here to access the Project Gallery of Fox Blocks ICF homes.
GREEN HOME BUILDING: Please click here to access the Green Building Trends section.
SERVICES OFFERED BY GREEN HARBOR BUILDING SYSTEMS, LLC: