We began using Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF) in 2003 (photo above) and I wish we had discovered this system much earlier. While it took a few years to make a complete switch, every foundation we pour today is done with ICF.
While I see much greater adoption of this technology today than in the early 2000’s, I am still surprised that more builders, designers and engineers do not use it. As an industry we tend to get stuck with what we know, and can be very reluctant to try anything that might seem new.
In reality ICF was a Canadian invention, patented in Canada by Werner Gregori in 1966 and in the US in 1968; it has been around for a long and has improved the durability, comfort and energy efficiency of homes for over 40 years.
Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF) are made from Expanded Polystyrene and unlike many of the materials used in construction, ICF’s and concrete are practically inert compounds, meaning they do not off-gas. Concrete is made up of natural minerals, and recycled materials, including crushed concrete, none of which change its inert nature.
ICF blocks are not Styrofoam, a common misconception. ICF blocks are, in fact, made of expanded polystyrene; an important difference is that when ICF blocks are made, no CFCs of HCFCs are used in the forming process.
The fire-retardant that is incorporated into the blocks will off-gas slightly in the factory. However, this process is finished before the blocks leave the factory, and long before a home-owner ever takes occupancy of their new ICF home.