insulating-concrete-form-testing

Another successful NUDURA home

We’re certainly not the only one singing the praises of insulated concrete forms for residential construction. Over the past five years the growth and corresponding accolades, raves, and reviews have been making headlines across the world. And when this happens in any industry, people want to put the proof in the pudding. For decades now, the ICF industry has been asked to provide definitive evidence that all of the supposed home building benefits of its products could deliver tangible and quantifiable benefits, and the industry has responded in kind. But more recently, the Standards Council of Canada (SCC) and International Accreditation Service (IAS) were commissioned by the Insulating Concrete Forms Manufacturers Association (ICFMA) to run a series of unbiased tests to provide a “once and for all” answer that builders across Canada (Alberta included) need to finally make ICF a staple in their stable of residential building tools. And here in the second fiscal quarter of 2018, Construction Canada has shared the results of these studies.

ICF vs Wood Frame Comparison Results from Standards Council of Canada and International Accreditation Service Testing

Superior R-Value

In a test against a code-compliant R-20 wood frame wall with typical gypsum wallboard and exterior vinyl siding finishes, the standard 6-inch core ICF wall dramatically outperformed the traditional wood frame wall, delivering a 58 percent better R-value. ICF rang in with a standardized thermal resistance of R-24.1, while the wood-frame assembly came in at R-15.

Winner: ICF

Exceptional Energy Savings

Armed with a superior R-value, the studies also validated the fact that ICF equates a more impressive energy savings value.

The final reports compared the two wall assemblies, and showed that the insulated concrete form assembly took approximately 324 hours to reach steady-state performance under an exterior air temperature of −35℃ whereas the wood-frame wall achieved steady state within just 60 hours. The latter consumed an estimated 149 percent more energy than insulated concrete forms. And after steady state was attained, it was found that ICF evidenced energy savings 60 percent better than that of the alternative.

The implications are pretty clear. Using a 2000 square foot (wall area) home as a point of reference, the study shows that in Alberta’s climate zone (w/extreme cold winters) the use of ICF can save residents up to 60 percent in electrical consumption. That’s real money right back into their pockets.

Winner: ICF

Greater Fire Resistance 

The studies dug deeper, beyond R-value and corresponding energy savings. For one, the tests proved that ICF is eight times more fire-resistant than wood. An ICF home would thus take four hours to burn, whereas a wood frame home would take just 30 minutes. With insulated concrete forms, there is more than enough time for firefighters to make it onto the scene to deal with the blaze and save the occupants, house, and possessions within. Given the recent history of fires in Alberta, sticking to antiquated wood frame building methods may very well be deemed irresponsible by some.

Of course, tests are one thing, but when you know that ICF is being applied in the real world as a solution to fire damage concerns, you certainly gain confidence in using it for your own residential development. Well, just days after the above test results were released, a major CBS News affiliate reported that wine country (Santa Rosa) homeowners are turning to ICF to rebuild in the wake of a string up wildfires spurred on by a 2,000+ degree inferno. ICF is fast becoming the answer for homes that reside not only in regions that are susceptible to hurricanes, tornadoes, and extreme cold, but for those exposed to the risk of forest and brush fires too.

Winner: ICF

Enhanced Acoustics

As the investigation dove further into the supposed benefits of ICF, SCC/IAS tests also uncovered the fact that insulated concrete forms offer enhanced acoustics, enabling 40 percent better sound transmission. Simply put, an ICF home is quieter and will also better keep noise from escaping, the latter of which will be appreciated in multi-residential complexes. Learn more about the incredible soundproofing qualities of insulated concrete forms.

Winner: ICF

Reduced Labour in Construction

While other known benefits were confirmed (i.e. preventing mould growth), the report also addressed and concluded with yet another important finding for builders. The province of Alberta is no stranger to the challenge of a dwindling labour pool, especially as it applies to the construction industry. Builders/developers adopting ICF no longer need to worry about this concern, thanks to the simplified buildings steps allowed by this method of construction. Long story short, fewer trade workers are required to complete a project.

Winner: ICF


Those of you on the fence about ICF adoption can now breathe easy. Insulated concrete forms are simply superior when compared to traditional wood frame residential construction. Contact Total ICF today before you break ground on your next building project in Alberta.