Insulated concrete formwork or ICF is a sustainable alternative to traditional residential and commercial building construction practices. ICF is rapidly gaining recognition in the construction industry as a robust, high performance yet affordable building system that delivers numerous advantages to any build. However, some specifiers continue to be sceptic about this innovative concrete form.

As proud manufacturers and suppliers of insulated concrete formwork for over two decades, ZEGO Building Systems examines some of these misconceptions and explains why ICF should be your go-to material to achieve your challenging project goals.

Myth 1: ICF is expensive

Insulated concrete formwork is quickly installed and offers exceptional thermal performance. However, many assume these advantages come at a high price. When all the benefits of ICF are added up, the cost will be comparable to conventional building materials, making this formwork solution a sensible choice for your projects.

Myth 2: ICF suits only residential construction

While it’s true that the early versions of insulated concrete formwork were limited to residential projects, ICF has evolved over the years to offer a reliable solution for projects of all types including commercial construction. ICF’s monolithic concrete core makes it ideal for both small- and large-scale buildings across education, high-rises, military and warehousing among other sectors.

Myth 3: ICF has faced failures

There was, indeed, a time when insulated concrete formwork faced setbacks during installation. These failures were caused by contractors who weren’t following the correct installation processes. Today, specifiers have access to experienced installers well-versed in the right techniques and methods of ICF installation, and who will use the proper alignment and bracing system to ensure walls are straight. When installed correctly, ICF is ideally reinforced and poured only when all necessary criteria are met.

Myth 4: Difficult to downsize HVAC systems to suit ICF’s excellent insulation

Insulated concrete formwork provides exceptional insulation that reduces HVAC load, allowing property owners to confidently downsize their heating and cooling systems. However, HVAC suppliers and installers are reluctant to provide smaller, more appropriate systems since the energy modelling programs they use may not recognise ICF’s insulation performance, resulting in oversized systems. If your energy model can factor in the performance of ICF walls, you can save on initial as well as ongoing operating costs.

Myth 5: ICF mass wall and R-20 cavity wall offer comparable performance

Both ICF, a mass walling solution with continuous insulation, and a typical R-20 frame with cavity wall offer excellent R-values. However, international building code differentiates between a mass wall with continuous insulation such as ICF, and a cavity wall. Multiple tests were conducted by the Insulated Concrete Form Manufacturers Association (ICFMA) to assess the thermal performance of an R-23 ICF wall against several wood and steel frame walls. The results showed that ICF outperformed the R-20 cavity wall by up to 60 per cent.

Additionally, ICF walls take longer to equilibrate. When subjected to a temperature test, timber began to cool almost immediately, whereas the ICF wall remained consistent for two days before beginning to drop.

For more information regarding insulated concrete formwork, including debunking any misconceptions you may have specifying it, get in touch with your team of ICF experts from ZEGO today.