The building foundation is at the core of a safe and secure home environment for our families. As the base of all structures, foundations provide the stability needed to create a solid and healthy environment. Some builders are finding plastic to be extremely helpful in laying a foundation.

Insulated Concrete Form Foundations

Pouring concrete foundation into an Insulated Concrete Form (ICF), which insulates the inside and the outside of the wall at the same time for this green building.

Coupled with other building materials, such as concrete, plastics present an array of innovative possibilities—such as Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) and Insulated Concrete Forms (ICFs). According to the Insulating Concrete Form Association (ICFA), homes built with SIPs (made with an expanded polystyrene (EPS) or extruded polystyrene (XPS) foam core laminated to sheets of high-strength oriented strand board), can help homeowners save hundreds of dollars each year on energy bills. In fact, because SIPS create a tighter building envelope than conventional insulation, your builder can actually reduce the size of heating and cooling equipment. Better yet, according to the Structural Insulated Panel Association (SIPA), SIPs keep costs down season after season, year after year, for as long as you own your home. As a result, using SIPs can slash energy costs by up to 50 percent.

SIP Panels serve as walls and foundations

An green building Structural Insulated Panel (SIP) illustration.

The laminated “sandwich” construction of SIPs provides buildings with great wind and seismic resistance, snow loading, and soundproofing characteristics. By eliminating a large portion of conventional wood framing, SIPs can use “approximately 35 percent less raw lumber in home construction, generating less manufacturing and construction waste,” according to the Structural Insulated Panel Association.”  SIP-built houses provide superior and uniform insulation compared to more traditional construction methods; they also take less time to build.

Another area in which plastics are becoming more commonly specified is the growing use of EPS in ICFs. Used in this way, according to ICFA, EPS can help lower energy bills, can decrease noise by as much as two-thirds compared to ordinary frame walls with conventional insulation, and can increase ease of construction and design flexibility (since foam is easy to cut and shape). Building with ICFs also reduces the use of lumber. According to the Insulating Concrete Form Association, “an ICF wall with four-inches of Type II ASTM C578 polystyrene foam insulation, combined with a five-inch concrete wall, is rated above R-17 at 75-degree mean test temperature. The result is a 25 to 50 percent energy savings over traditional stud-wall or steel-frame homes.

Insulated Concrete Form Foundations (ICFs)

Green Building ICF foundations

Typically ICF foundations link together like building blocks and are then filled with foundation concrete.

Times have changed. Today, basements are often used as gathering places for the family—making warmth, comfort and energy-efficiency crucial elements of building success.

Insulated Concrete Forms (ICFs) are forms for poured concrete walls that stay in place as a permanent part of the wall assembly. The forms, made of foam insulation, are either pre-formed interlocking blocks or separate panels connected with plastic ties. This union allows concrete to perform as a thermally efficient building structure, boasting R-values. According to Structural Insulated Panel Association (SIPA), EPS, in this application, may help provide lower energy cost by up to 50% and noise abatement by as much as two-thirds compared to ordinary frame wall with fiberglass insulation, as well as design flexibility and ease of construction.

ICF provides all the benefits of concrete with the additional attribute of two built-in layers of foam insulation. An ICF home capitalizes on the durability and low maintenance of concrete.

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