ICF News Roundup Arxx Acquired by Apex Block Arxx Building Systems, a longtime leader in the insulating concrete forms industry, has been purchased by Apex Block, a maker of cement-EPS composite ICFs.
The new company, called Arxx Elements, aims to broaden its products beyond the distinctive exposed-tie ICF and offer designers, distributors, and contractors a comprehensive range of green building products for the exterior building element. Look for more details in the next issue of this magazine.
Fox Blocks Earns Certifications Fox Blocks, a division of Airlite Plastics, has received code approval by the Wisconsin Department of Commerce, Safety & Buildings Division.
This state specific code approval marks the next of several national and local building code approvals that Fox Blocks expects to receive in the next few months. The ICF has already been approved by ICC-ES and the State of Florida.
Also, the company is now a certified provider of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) continuing education program. Fox Blocks will be providing credit approved Lunch & Learn programs to architectural firms throughout the nation.
Builders Wholesale Closes Their Doors
Builders Wholesale, an ICF distribution company who once planned to dominate the industry, has closed its doors.
Based near Reno, Nev., the company was launched in late 2005 as a one-stop distribution warehouse for everything ICF related. Their cavernous warehouse stocked 5 different brands of insulated concrete forms, as well as massive amounts of bracing, window bucking, waterproofing, and other accessories. A nearby training center with a showroom full of wall samples demonstrating how the components work was also established.
The initial plan to set up similar distribution centers across the United States was scaled back significantly in mid-2006, eventually leaving only the Reno facility. That location functioned much like a traditional distributorship until it also ceased operations late last year.
Residential Slump Worsens
Residential construction, already suffering its worst slowdown in more than a decade, continues to decline.
Purchases of new homes in December were the fewest since February 1995. New home sales dropped 26% in 2007, the biggest decline since recordkeeping began in 1963.
The residential housing slowdown has affected all regions of the country, with the Midwest reporting the biggest decline, nearly 31%. New home starts are down 26% in the Northeast and 20% in the West. The South saw only a 3% decline.
Builders are reducing inventories, but the current sales pace, it would take 9.6 months to sell the new homes currently on the market, the most in more than two decades.
"We are in a deep recession now in terms of new home sales and housing starts," said Lincoln Anderson, chief economist at LPL Financial Services in Boston. "We're seeing it bottoming out, but it's a lot lower bottom than I expected."
Real estate prices are starting to fall. Nationally, the median price of a new home fell from $244,700 in December 2006 to $219,200 last month. The price of previously-owned homes also declined—for the first time since record-keeping began four decades ago. The National Association of Realtors claims it is probably the first time since the Great Depression in the 1930s this has occurred.
World of Concrete Called a Success
The World of Concrete trade show, one of the largest exhibitions in North America, was held last month in Las Vegas, Nev., Jan. 21-25.
Exhibitors inside and outside the ICF industry commented that while the show was not as heavily attended as years past, the level of interest and quality of leads seemed to be better than last year.
The educational seminars offered throughout the show were extremely popular; three of them focused specifically on ICF construction. A 3-hour "Introduction to ICF Construction" class was taught on Monday, and Vera Novak with the ICFA led a 90-minute discussion on Wednesday titled "Building Science for ICFs" which generated a significant level of interest. Thursday, Donn Thompson of the PCA taught another 3-hour "Introduction to ICFs" class.
In the exhibit halls, most of the major manufacturers had a presence, and several had outdoor booths as well to let attendees get hands-on experience stacking forms, making corners, and cutting utility chases.
Several major manufacturers, including IntegraSpec, Arxx, and Logix, held their annual distributor meetings in conjunction with the show.
Perhaps the biggest event for those involved with the ICF industry was the ICF Builder Awards. An estimated 300 guests crowded the welcome reception, and stayed to watch a presentation of the winning projects that set new standards or advanced the entire industry.
Next year's World of Concrete will also be held in Las Vegas, and will run Feb. 2-5, 2009.
CertainTeed Reaches Deal with Armtec CertainTeed, maker of the popular Form-A-Drain footing drain, has reached an agreement with Armtec of Canada to be the exclusive U.S supplier of their Platon air gap membrane.
Used as both a flooring underlayment and as a superior ICF foundation waterproofing, Platon can be used in a variety of ways to ensure below-grade structures stay dry.
"We're always looking to bring on new products that will complement our full line of construction products," says Steve Gross, Director of Marketing for CertainTeed’s Foundations business. "We reached an agreement late last year to represent the U.S. exclusively. We're always looking for ways to add value." Gross also said that Platon works extremely well with their Form-A-Drain system, and expects to achieve customer-focused synergies with the new partnership.
Armtec will continue to manufacture and market Platon in Canada and other countries.
ICFs Lose Residential Market Share
According to the Portland Cement Association (PCA) the ICF industry lost ground in the residential sector last year, part of a broader decline in concrete housing in general.
The overall U.S. concrete home market share dropped to 14.4%, down 3.5% from two years ago. ICFs slipped 0.2% to 4.5%. It is the first decline since PCA started tracking residential above-grade market share in 1993.
Still ICFs experienced less of a drop than other concrete wall systems. Masonry's market share declined 3.3%, while precast and removable forms dropped 2.0%.
Craig Schulz, director of market research for the PCA says Florida accounts for most of the slump. "Since the vast majority of new homes in Florida are built with concrete, this accounted for almost the entire U.S. percentage drop," he says. New housing starts in the state are down 31%.
2007 ICF Builder Awards
These are the winners of the 2007 ICF Builder Awards, an annual competition that showcases those projects that have set a higher standard for the entire industry. The awards are intended to advance the ICF industry by recognizing and rewarding innovation and excellence in ICF construction.
Winners were first announced at the ICF Builder Award Presentation, an evening event held in January in conjunction with the World of Concrete. The presentation this year attracted more than 250 people from all segments of the ICF industry, and was a great opportunity to network, socialize, and meet new contacts.
"The common denominator with all the winning projects this year is the exceptional level of support that was provided," says Clark Ricks, one of the contest judges. "Many of the winning projects, especially on the commercial side, were designed and/or built by companies with no prior ICF experience. The form distributors and manufacturers who stepped up and provided the training, technical expertise, and on-site consulting to make these projects a success are a credit to the industry. That kind of 'extra-mile effort' is what really advances the industry."
The ICF Builder Awards are sponsored by Cosella-Dorken, Legalett, Oztec, and this magazine.
Large Residential winner: New Southern Home The New Southern Home, has been selected as the winner of the Large Residential category of this year's ICF Builder Awards. Greenblock Worldwide, which supplied the almost 15,000 sq. ft. of ICFs used for the project, recommended bringing in an experienced ICF installation crew to stack, brace and pour the walls. Insulated Concrete Walls, which works on large ICF projects nationwide, got the nod.
They immediately set to work, and the crew of 15 had the ICF portion built in 3 weeks. It was poured to a height of 16’ in a single day, using two pump trucks who placed the 380 cubic yards of concrete in series of 4' lifts…
1ST rUNNER uP, Large Residential: mADY rESIDENCE
The Mady Residence looks much smaller than it' actual 12,400 sq. ft., which includes a 2,500 sq. ft. climate-controlled garage. The owners made the decision to build with ICFs after considering the advantages over frame construction, the high wind loads the home would experience near the lake, the energy savings, and absence of long term maintenance issues.
Darrel Cronin, owner of Cronin Contracting, was hired to build the residence after the owners had toured several of Cronin's other projects and were satisfied he could bring the project in as promised.
Cronin had a difficult job ahead of him. Construction began in November 2005, as temperatures in Canada were starting to plunge. The Mady's wanted the home completed by spring. To add to the difficulties, the basement was below the water level of the nearby lake, and the plans indicated a veritable maze of walls, including radiuses, T-intersections, octagonal rooms, and non-standard angles…
2nd rUNNER uP, Large Residential: BOONE rESIDENCE
The second runner-up in the Large Residential category is the Boone Residence, a 7,500 sq. ft. home in Knights Ferry, Calif. The home has several unusual features, including a 30' radius ICF wall, which is punctuated with large windows. A large deck spanning 40' covers the back of the home, and the bay windows—built from ICFs—are suspended more than 9 feet above the basement footings. They are supported by concrete corbels that were formed and cast on site. The walkout basement and retaining walls on the lot are also made from ICFs, and one ICF wall soars 35 feet from footing to sill plate.
Small Residential winner: Turner Residence
The Turner Residence is truly a ground-breaking project. Built on a beautiful, forested lot in rural Tennessee, the project was the first occasion for many people in the county to be exposed to ICFs, including the local building officials. The owners liked the strength ICFs offered, but they immediately noticed other advantages as well. They were energy efficient. Their strength allowed the designers to incorporate massive openings and support extended clear spans.
Using Nudura-brand forms, which are 8-feet long instead of the typical 4', work proceeded quickly.oured to a height of 16’ in a single day, using two pump trucks who placed the 380 cubic yards of concrete in series of 4' lifts…
1ST rUNNER uP, Small Residential: Toscana Mia
Toscana Mia, a Mediterranean-style home built in the Grande Dunes section of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, is a great example of an ICF home where the builder did everything right. Berkley White, the developer and builder of the home, was familiar with the many benefits of ICF construction, and says the safety component was the primary attraction. White's company, Classic Home Building and Design, is registered as a "Fortified…For Safer Living" builder in South Carolina. That means that in addition to ICF walls, the house has better connections between components, a stronger roof, more durable shingles, and so on. It's all inspected by an independent, third-party appraiser to give the eventual homeowner complete assurance that the house is built to the highest quality standards…
2nd rUNNER uP, Small Residential: THe Wentworth The second runner-up in the Small Residential category is the Wentworth Residence in Escalon, Calif. Desgined and built by Chuck Toledo of Toledo Construction, the home is a masterpiece. Its also extremely energy efficient. Exterior and interior ICF Walls (including one 25’ high) keep heating and cooling costs to a minimum. Energy-Star appliances keep utility bills down. The high-insulation roof is rated at R-38, with foil insulation as an additional reflective barrier.
WINNER Multi-Family: Surrey grand crowne
This year's contest featured a new category, Multifamily, and the project that took top honors in the new division is Surrey Grand Crowne, a resort condominium in Branson, Mo. One of the major challenges facing the construction team was that the new building had to match exactly the other condo building already at the site. The others had been built with steel prior to the sudden cost increases in 2005.
The 51,000 sq. ft. building was erected with a minimum of problems and was completed in about 180 days. General contractor WCI, which also installed the forms, says ICFs proved to be "the right choice every step of the way." The insulated forms eliminated many steps associated with wall construction. Instead of installing “steel, insulation, sheathing, foam, and finish,” once the concrete was poured, the wall was already insulated, furred out, and ready to finish.
The project went so smoothly, in fact, that the biggest problem apparently was finding HVAC units small enough for the energy-efficient condos…
1st Runner Up Multi-Family: E2 City homes
E2 City Homes, in Minneapolis, Minn., is one of the first LEED-certified multi-family projects in the state. Designed as a four-plex, the 6,300 sq. ft. building cost $850,000—about $134 per sq. ft. Credit for the sustainable aspect of E2 goes to The Urban Group, which served as owner/developer of the project and set high green standards from the beginning.
Completed in May of 2007, the project is a landmark for sustainable construction techniques. Interior finishes, including carpet, countertops, and wood, is all recycled. Windows and appliances are all Energy-Star rated. Geothermal heating keeps energy costs way below normal, and a garden roof completes the focus of sustainable design…
Light Commercial winner:
Dry Creek professional Building
For overcoming initial hesitation to create a beautiful, eco-friendly light commercial building, we're proud to recognize Dry Creek Professional Building G as the winner of the Light Commercial category of the 2007 ICF Builder Awards. According to Dan McCullough, the Utah-based Logix distributor that eventually provided the forms for the project, the owners were convinced to use ICFs because of their energy efficiency (near R-24), fire rating (4-hour), durability, longevity, and comfort.
Designers coupled the naturally energy-efficient wall system with in-floor radiant hydronic heating and a highly insulated roof system. To improve efficiency of the heating system even more, a ground-source heat pump was also incorporated into the design.
With proper training, the project moved along smoothly, despite the fact that a major portion of the project was completed during the cold Utah winter.
The winning qualities of Fire Station #62 go beyond its architecture. Built from Logix ICF, and matched with durable, low-maintenance finishes, it will easily outlast its specified 50 to 100-year lifespan. A high efficiency hydronic heating system keeps the building warm through the harsh Montana winters at a fraction of the cost expected. The building used only 30% of heating/cooling budget during its first year of operation.
2nd rUNNER uP, Light Commercial: Pinegrove church Faced with a growing congregation and an aging chapel, Pinegrove Church in Kingston, Ontario, decided to build a new facility. After touring a nearby church that had recently been constructed with ICFs, the building committee was sold on the concept.
To keep costs down, the ICF installer agreed to allow church members to help out as unpaid volunteers. With 10,000 sq. ft of ICF walls, and only two trained installers on site, the church's walls are reportedly within an 1/8" of plumb, and the entire project was completed for around $85 a sq. ft.
Heavy Commercial winner: Alvaton Elementary School
Alvaton Elementary, an 80,000 sq. ft. public school near Bowling Green, Kentucky, has been awarded 2007 Best Heavy Commercial Project by the ICF Builder Awards.
This project is notable not only for its outstanding architecture and construction considerations, but also because it has opened a new sector to the entire ICF industry. The story starts in 2004 when the local Nudura distributor approached the Warren County Board of Education with a proposal to use insulating concrete forms in their new elementary school.
He arranged to take the school officials and the architectural firm they'd selected, Sherman Carter Barnhart, to tour an ICF school in Bentonville Arkansas.
"One of the first things they noticed was the lack of noise," says Martin Clark. "They asked if there were any kids in the school because it was so quiet. After we took the tour, they asked the superintendent if he wouldn't mind telling them what the utility bills were running, and after they saw the bills, they said, 'absolutely, this is what we want to try.' "
1ST rUNNER uP, Heavy Commercial: Seaside condominiums Seaside Condominiums, built just yards from the Oregon Coast, is a great example of why insulating concrete forms are taking the commercial construction sector by storm. The project was awarded first runner up in the 2007 ICF Builder Awards.
Designers originally chose ICFs because they needed a building envelope that could resist the highly corrosive wind-blown saltwater. But they also appreciated the material's strength, ease of use, and speed of construction.
The eight-story, horseshoe shaped building is just over 400,000 sq. ft., and was the largest building under construction in Oregon while it was being built. The concrete post-and-beam building used 142,000 sq. ft. of ICFs as infill walls.
2nd rUNNER uP, Heavy Commercial: tifton comfort inn According to the owner, the Comfort Inn in Tifton, Georgia, is the "best built hotel in our company." The hotel walls, constructed with IntegraSpec ICF, keep out the traffic noise on the nearby interstate, minimize energy bills, and can withstand the very worst of Mother Nature.
But the hotel also set a new benchmark for ICF construction. Faced with an incredibly tight construction timeline—under four months—and a budget that even stick frame builders would find challenging, a team of five ICF installation companies worked together to bring the project in on time and on budget.
Fear No Design
Like many professionals in the design field, you've probably heard something about insulating concrete forms, or ICFs.
They are becoming extremely popular for green building, contributing up to 26 points toward LEED certification, and are one of the most cost-effective ways to build highly insulated exterior walls.
They also are also used in a host of specialty applications, such as sound dampening demising walls (between movie theaters or condo units, for example), projects that need to withstand tremendous abuse (hurricane- and tornado-prone regions, wildfire areas, emergency response shelters, military-grade structures, etc.) and for projects that favor using lightly-trained volunteer labor.
But what you may not know is how easy it is to design with ICFs. Virtually any design or architectural style can be built with ICFs. In fact, most designs can be built more quickly and easily with ICFs than with any other type of concrete construction. The cost is usually slightly more than wood frame construction, but almost always less than masonry or removable form construction.
Whether you're designing a Craftsman-style bungalow, a Tuscan mansion, or a home with sleek modern lines, you'll find that ICFs can easily accommodate your vision.
In fact, it's often the case that difficult designs can be constructed more easily with insulating concrete forms than with any other method.
Converting Home Plans to ICF Adapting a plan for ICF construction is reasonably straightforward, and typically costs about 75 cents per sq. ft.—a major savings when designing from scratch typically runs about $2.50 per sq. ft.
Virtually any design can be built with ICFs, if the designer is aware of a few basics. The conversion typically starts with stretching the exterior walls outward 7 inches to accommodate the thicker exterior walls, but usually involves much more. We’ll use the house plan printed below to illustrate.