ICF HOMES

New Homes, built with insulating concrete forms (ICF), is part of a growing trend in the United States — it's common in Europe — according to the National Association of Home Builders.

Concrete constructed homes made up just 3 percent of the total market in 1996, according to the Portland Cement Association. By 2003, that number rose to 13 percent.

ICF homes come at a higher price than traditional wood frames — but they boast higher energy efficiency and weather resistance, as well as lower maintenance and insurance costs.

​​​​​In a survey conducted by Dr. Pieter VanderWerf at Boston University, insulating concrete forms reduced energy used for heating by about 44 percent and for cooling by about 32 percent. Portland Cement Association estimates homeowners save $12 a month on insurance and $43 a month on energy bills.

So why aren't these everywhere?

Sales manager and estimator Herb Walser cites the longtime use and availability of lumber in the United States, along with a hesitancy for change. This type of technology is relatively new to the country; the Insulating Concrete Form Association was founded in the mid-1990s and Harrison's company has been selling ICF since 2004.

"In the U.S., we're actually a little bit behind the timing," Walser said. "You have to prove the way you have is better than the way we're doing it."

"What people are seeing is they can have the fantastic insulation value in the walls, the soundproofing and the feature that when we're done, the walls are literally ready to drywall, interior, choose paneling and install the siding," Martin said. "You're done, you're good to go."

Unlike a wood-frame home, ICF-constructed buildings essentially go up in one step, a monolithic pour of concrete from bottom to top.

That seals any holes or hollow cavities wood-frame homes might have, and it makes the house sturdy; even "tornado-proof," Walser said.

"These houses are going to last hundreds and hundreds of years," Martin said.

Written by: Katie Sullivan