Commercial ICF Kits

PolycreteUSA, the Virginia-based ICF company, recently provided material for a six-story, 24-unit ICF building built at the rate of a floor per week.

The secret to the exceptionally fast construction schedule, says company president Bruce Anderson, is XpressWall, a factory pre-cut ICF wall kit for the entire building shell. He says, “We scan your drawings into our system and digitally construct the ICF portion. Each row gets a letter designation and each block gets numbered. Our fabrication department then cuts each block to spec, labels it, and packages your kit. We fabricate all corners, doors, window openings, and floor transitions in our factory.”

This can lead to improved accuracy, faster construction, and reduced labor costs. “It will cost you the same or less than masonry because you don’t need structural steel, insulation or framing on the inside of the wall,” Anderson adds.

The company will also “kit out” residential projects.

The trend in the ICF industry—and construction in general—is moving toward off-site construction. Rising costs, difficult logistics, and labor shortages are a few of the drivers.

“The more we do in the factory, the more precise the work, and the less you have to do in the field,” Anderson concludes.


Six-Hour Safe Room Build

A new online video demonstrates how to build a reinforced concrete safe room, bunker or panic room in less than six hours. A crew of four from ICF Specialist, a well-known ICF installer based in Arizona, stacks and pours the 9’x13′ storage building, including slab and concrete roof in less than a day.

The video, which can be viewed free online, uses time-lapse photography to compress the six-hour build into about five minutes. Workers use four pallets of Fox Block ICF (24 straight forms and 24 corners) to stack the walls. Wooden roof forming is used to brace the walls, and a grout pump places all the concrete in a single pour.

Several contractors, including Ian Giesler of Saferooms America, report that ICF safe rooms are a profitable business model in areas of the country where ICF construction has not yet hit the mainstream. These rooms are especially popular in the Midwest, where tornados are common and basements are rare. However, they are built in all areas of North America for use as panic rooms, walk-in safes, and so forth. For businesses, they can double as a nighttime vault where camera recording, servers and documents can be stored and survive nearly any threat against the business or structure.

Labor Shortages Continue

New data from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce indicates construction labor is in short supply, and that commercial contractors are increasingly turning to alternative construction solutions, like prefabrication and modularization.

Additionally, two-thirds of contractors expect commercial construction will increase over the next year and that labor shortages will increase.

“As we work to continually build our neighborhoods, towns, regions, and roads, as well as the workforce that supports our growth, innovation becomes a key component in advancing our country into the 21st century,” said Thomas J. Donohue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber. “We must invest in a skilled, competitive, motivated workforce and embrace new innovations to ensure we are able to compete on a global scale.”

New Book Promotes ICF

A new book is on the market, promoting ICF construction as a way to reduce property damage in natural disasters. The book is written by Joseph Warnes, and Kenneth Luttrell.  Warnes has more than 50 years experience in concrete promotion and concrete construction, and is a well-known presenter in the ICF industry. He is best known for advocating “total concrete shell” construction rather than the more typical walls-only method. Luttrell is a licensed professional engineer and performed the structural analysis and calculations for the book in addition to co-author duties.

The book, titled How To Design And Build Disaster Safe Homes, was released in August and runs about 170 pages. It’s available through most major online booksellers.

The book covers how to build a home that will survive virtually any major natural disaster—including wildfires, earthquakes, hurricanes, and tornadoes. Warnes and Luttrell strongly advocate for a “box shell” construction with a concrete foundation, walls, and roof, all tied into a single monolithic structure. While ICFs can be used to create disaster-resistant multi-family and commercial buildings, the book focuses on “insulated engineered reinforced concrete (IERC) single family dwellings.”

The volume contains structural design calculations never published elsewhere, and includes complete structural engineering analysis for winds to 350 mph, equivalent to the strongest tornadoes. It also discusses considerations for converting wood frame designs to disaster resistant concrete.