Insulated Concrete Forms: The Answer for Storm-Resistant Homes?

Written by Jaymi Naciri Posted On Wednesday, 11 April 2018 13:21

The year 2011: An EF5 tornado rolls through Joplin, MO, killing 158 and devastating the entire town. That same year, almost 16,000 people are killed and entire towns wiped off the map in a magnitude-9.0 earthquake off the coast of Japan. 2017: Then Category 5 Hurricane Maria brutalizes Texas and Puerto Rico.

While no area is immune from the calamitous effects of increasingly powerful storms, there are ways to help protect yourself, and your home. One increasingly popular building product is giving people peace of mind and providing a potential solution for storm resistance - especially for those who live in areas that are more prone to destructive weather and its catastrophic aftereffects.

According to a story on NBCDFW, the North Texas NBC affiliate, "More North Texans are looking into building homes out of concrete using Insulated Concrete Forms for the walls."

Insulated concrete forms (ICFs) are "cast-in-place concrete walls that are sandwiched between two layers of insulation material, usually expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam insulation forms," said Proud Green Home. "The foam blocks are stacked as interlocking blocks, connected with steel reinforcing rods. They offer well-insulated, airtight, energy-efficient building enclosures. Also, ICFs are a great fit for regions prone to severe weather because of their strong impact resistance."

Specifically, ICFs are said to be able to withstand winds of up to 250 miles per hour - enough to provide protection from both an EF5 tornado and a Cat 5 hurricane.

NBCDFW profiled North Texas homeowner Gary Karnavas, who has a meteorology degree as well as a keen interest in extreme weather, and who built his family home with ICFs. "Basically, the walls of his home have a six-inch core of concrete," they said. "The result is a building that's stronger than a wood-built home."

About "nine times stronger than conventional construction," Cameron Ware with NUDURA, the company Karnavas used for his home's ICFs and one of the leaders in the industry, told them. Ware also said that, "on average it can add an additional 5-10 percent on your overall build price."

The additional costs can be offset by increased energy-efficiency, however. That's another advantage to building with ICFs; Karnavas mused that his electric bill for his 5,700-square-foot-home has not topped $200—this despite having 300 square feet of windows on the west wall of the home to maximize the views.

According to Oklahoma City-based BuildBlock, another ICF industry leader, the product can provide "30–70% savings in energy consumption and costs (good for your pocketbook and the environment)," as well as "75% reduction in outside air infiltration (less dust and allergens)." It also creates an environment that is more fire safe and is "five times quieter than a wood-frame home."

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