Q: What are Insulating Concrete Forms?
A: Insulating Concrete Forms (ICFs) are hollow EPS (expanded polystyrene) blocks or panels, which are stacked into the shape of the exterior walls (and or internal walls) of a residential or commercial building. Reinforcing steel is added into the cavity inside between the two foam layers to reinforce the concrete core, this cures and hardens into a single monolithic core. The foam panel stays in place. This combination of concrete, steel and foam creates an incredibly strong and energy-efficient structure, without the need to add insulation.
Q: Why is Eco Block better than other ICF’s in Australia?
A: Not all ICF’s are the same, ECO Block is stronger and faster because it offers a built in battening system with multiple connectors what snap lock into place where required allowings a completed wall to be direct fixed into, just like a conventional wall. The 65mm high density panels offer trouble free vibrating when consolidating the core during a concrete pour, reducing sideways movement and ultimately a straighter stronger wall.
ECO Block panels also offer higher thermal performance of R 3.74 than any other ICF in Australia.
ECO Block is manufactured locally and distributed throughout Australia.
ECO Block has competent and experienced technical support staff, we provide on site training and technical support to every new builder.
Q: How does the homeowner benefit from this type of construction?
A: ECO Block homes are safer as they have a continuous concrete core which is up to 100% stronger than a conventional concrete block wall and have maintained structural integrity in real natural disasters such as tornadoes, hurricanes, cyclones, earthquakes, fires and floods. Ask us about the homes that survived Hurricane Katrina.
ECO Block Homeowners may save between 30% – 60% (depending on weather zones) of heating and cooling costs compared to conventional homes as they are double insulated. They are also cleaner and healthier as they can be completely sealed preventing dust, pollen or other contaminants getting into your home.
Technical Information/Support – Homeowners who wish to enjoy the benefits of an Eco Block home should talk to us directly about Designers, Engineers and Builders who we know have experience in designing and building to get the very best out ECO Block. Our preferred contractors will give you the best value for money on your projects.
If you already have a relationship with a Designer or Builder for your next home, it is very important that they have the latest technical information, we have recently updated our Engineering & Design Guide, Full Technical Manual and Onsite Training Manuals which are available by request online or contact us directly and we will arrange product presentations with the latest updates with them.
An ECO-Block Building provides a stronger, healthier, quieter indoor environment.
Q: What are the design possibilities and/or limitations with ECO-Block?
A: There are few limitations with ECO Block as it is simply a formwork system, it is light and easy you create the shape and fill the void with reinforcing steel and concrete. It can also be shaped molded or curved to suit any design.
The solid concrete core in an ECO-Block wall which can be anywhere from 100mm to 600mm thick and is substantially stronger than traditional masonry wall, this combined with increased insulation values means that you can have larger door and window openings than a conventional building. All of the lintels and structural elements can be inside the wall cavity, floors can also be cantilevered over ECO Block walls ( refer the Designers & Engineers Manual)
Eco Block also has furring strips every 200mm in the panel, which allows you to screw fix directly into both sides of the block and attach any finish i.e. gyp rock or render or timber to the inside or custom orb, brick veneer, stucco and stone or render to the outside. ECO Block offers the greatest design scope, with the greatest strength. There is no limit to style or form.
Q: Does it cost more to build this way?
A: An ECO Block home will cost more to build than a similar sized timber frame home. Any difference in the material costs will be recovered through significantly lower utility and energy bills via downsizing of heating and cooling equipment. The labour cost should be reduced as ECO Block houses can be constructed up to 30% Faster. It is not uncommon for all of the exterior walls on an ECO Block house to be up and poured in two weeks.
Maintenance costs are much lower, ECO Block buildings are more moisture resistant, there is no timber to rot or warp. Most wall and ceiling insulation in conventional homes is installed in a blanket form, which is know so sag and become less efficient with increases in moisture causing higher heating and cooling expenses. Eco Block is rigid and double insulated providing constant home comfort for the life of a building.
Termite Protection in Australia is a multimillion dollar industry. Media reports recently stated that 1 in 4 houses in Queensland are severely affected and will require major work. Termites are attracted to the moisture content in timber and other porous building materials. ECO Block is made from high density EPS and is impervious to moisture (stays dry),the concrete slab and solid concrete core in the wall prevent egress into the building at ground level and when completed all of the EPS will be enclosed providing a barrier to a substrate with no nutritional value. Local regulations do require minimum protection, but in the history of concrete construction there are no known cases of lost structural integrity through Termites.
Q: Is ECO-Block a difficult system?
A: No. ECO Block provides insulation, battens and solid concrete core in 1 simple system. The blocks are light weight and stack like Lego™, braces are then attached to support the wall before the concrete core is poured the wall is then adjusted level and straight. We provide experienced onsite training and technical support to every new builder. ECO Block is Simpler, Faster Better.
Q: What is the average R-value of ICF walls?
A: Walls made of ICFs perform, on average, like a wood-frame wall constructed with R-3.780 insulation. But that’s not the whole story. The equivalent R-value performance of ICFs consists of three factors. First is the R-value of the expanded polystyrene. Second, the thermal stability of concrete walls reduces the temperature fluctuations and, consequently, the heat load requirements that are images to wood-frame buildings. Finally, air leakage (infiltration) can account for 20 to 40 percent of the heat load requirements of a wood-frame building. ICFs eliminate this air infiltration through the wall assembly. As a result, with the combined performance of the R-value of the expanded polystyrene, the stabilizing effects of the thermal mass of the concrete, and the reduced air infiltration provide significantly superior insulation to all other wall systems.
Q: Won’t the foam burn or give off harmful emissions?
A: The foams in ICFs are manufactured with flame-retardant additives. The National Research Council reviewed the numerous existing studies of fire emissions and concluded that the emissions from polystyrene foams are no more toxic than those of typical softwoods used in home construction.
Q: What about comfort?
A: Concrete walls built with ICFs effectively buffer a house’s interior from the outdoors. The thick ICF sandwich of a massive material (concrete) with a light one (foam) sharply cuts fluctuations in temperature, air infiltration and noise. ICFs keep the inside more comfortable and less drafty than ordinary wood-frame walls. With regard to noise, studies have shown that compared to a typical wood-frame house, only about one-third as much sound penetrates an ICF wall.
Q: How do ECO-Block homes resist tornado and hurricane-force winds?
A: ECO Blocks greatest strength is its solid concrete core from 10mm and up to 600mm thick. The greatest hazard to homeowners during Cyclones, Tornadoes and Hurricanes is the penetration of debris driven by high winds. Recent laboratory testing at Texas Tech University compared the impact resistance of residential concrete wall construction to conventionally framed walls. ICFs and solid concrete masonry walls successfully demonstrated the strength and mass to resist the impact of wind-driven debris. Wood-framed walls failed to stop the penetration of airborne hazards.
Q: Is this building technique approved by code organizations?
A: Yes. Eco Block meets the requirements of the Building Code of Australia. The 2000 and 2003 International Residential Codes have a section on ICF construction. ECO Block is also an approved masonry wall system by the Queensland State Government.
Q: Can ECO-Block homes be built in earthquake areas?
A: Yes. If properly reinforced, an ICF home can provide significant protection during earthquakes. If you live in an earthquake zone, you should consult a structural engineer to determine what the reinforcement requirements are in your area.
Q: Is ECO-Block considered an environmentally friendly method of building?
A: In a building’s life cycle (from construction to demolition); the greatest ecological impact is the amount of fuel needed to heat and cool the home. Insulating Concrete Homes are a preferred environmental choice because of significant savings in natural resources needed to maintain a comfortable temperature. Building with Eco Block (ICF’s) will reduce up to 40% the consumption of green house gas emissions.
Q: Is it difficult for subcontractors to work with this material?
A: No. Electricians, Plumbers and Plasterers adapt easily to working in a house with ICF walls. In fact many of them prefer it as it is soft light and clean to work with, with no need to drill or grind when installing services. Chase cuts are made where services are required and the EPS just pulls away allowing flush boxes and other fitting to be connected directly to the concrete core.
Q: Can ECO-Block be used for tilt-up applications?
A: Yes. The ECO-Block system for insulating tilt-up concrete panels offers the speed of tilt-up construction with the benefits of an ICF wall. After setting the panels in the form, you install reinforcement and embed, and place the concrete. Once the concrete achieves the specified strength, the wall is lifted in place and screw-ties directly to the web system on the panel. For each additional inch of concrete penetration, attach 25mm extensions to the web.
Q: Can termites eat through the foam in an ECO-Block wall?
A: Expanded polystyrene (EPS) has no nutritional value to insects, including termites. If left exposed and untreated, they may attempt to nest in the EPS foam. Foam is approved for use below grade, as well as above grade, by all building codes as long as “an approved method” of protecting the foam plastic and structure from termite damage is provided. Deciding what constitutes an approved method, however, is left to local code officials.
One measure agreed upon by all parties is the need for a minimum 152mm bare concrete inspection strip at grade level. This is required if foam is used below grade or only above grade. This is extremely easy to accomplish with ECO-Block, since it is a panelised system. A 152mm horizontal strip of EPS is cut out to allow the formation of a solid concrete barrier at grade. This creates a solid concrete barrier, forcing the termite to the outside of the foam where it is visible.
Additional steps, together or separately, may meet the “approved method” requirements:
• Protect the foam with a termite barrier made from stainless steel mesh.
• Install “bait systems” on exposed concrete strips or treat the soil as usual.
• Treat footings and backfill with termicides.
• Eliminate as much wood in the structure as possible by using steel and plastic replacements.
Remember, in a solid concrete home there is little to eat. The concrete also acts as a solid barrier to termite infestation inside the home.
Q: Will it take longer to build my home with ECO-Block?
A: Experienced ICF crews report that building ICF homes can actually take less time than using wood-frame construction. The ICF construction method eliminates several steps — such as sheathing and insulating the exterior walls — that are necessary with wood-frame construction.
WE HAVE BUILT SINGLE STORY HOMES IN UNDER 6 DAYS
OR INSTALLED THE EQUIVALENT OF 25,000 BRICKS IN JUST 10 DAYS WITH 4 MEN INCLUDING THE PLACEMENT OF CONCRETE.
Q: Can ECO-Block be exposed to ultraviolet rays for extended periods of time?
A: Exposure of up to a year should not pose a serious problem. However, a light oxidation layer will develop on the surface of the forms after extended periods of exposure. This oxidation does not indicate any detrimental effects to the wall form. However, you may need to use a water spray to clean the oxidized layer prior to brushing the surface with a broom to provide a clean bonding surface.
Q: When building with ECO-Block, will mold and mildew in my new building be a problem?
A: ECO-Block ICFs can significantly contribute to a mould-free environment due to the inorganic nature of the material. They also create a very tight building envelope, reducing unintentional air infiltration. In high-humidity environments, interior moisture should then be controlled through the use of spot removal (e.g., bathroom fans) and properly sized air conditioning units that will cycle on long enough to dehumidify the air.
Q: Can radius and angled walls be constructed with ECO-Block ICFs?
A: Radius walls are easily constructed by mitre-cutting the form at the proper angle and using foam to join the edges.