Concrete Insulation Shrinks Carbon Footprint

You may not think of concrete at the top of the list of green building materials, but the long-term reductions in energy use are making it a popular choice for construction. 

Conduit Development is one of many builders now relying on insulated concrete form (ICF) technology for their green home projects. The company is renovating an older home on the bluffs of California into a new efficient, more durable residence.

By October the company expects to complete their green renovation of the sixties era San Pedro home. The eco-friendly home will hold up against fire, earthquakes, mold and saltwater erosion— which is especially necessary in coastal areas and even more locally, recent Santa Barbara fires.

ICF buildings require 30 to 50 percent less energy to heat and cool (and thus greatly reduces the amount of fossil fuels consumed), as the expanded polystyrene blocks are efficient insulators. As emphasis towards reducing utility costs continue, ICF could fill an important void when dealing with improving low-income dwellings, a concern that shared in a report recently released by Living Cities.

Are ICF buildings part of the new green construction wave? According to BuildBlock Building Systems, the net extra cost of an ICF building is about $0.25 to $3.25 per square foot. ICF also can contribute points towards LEED certification.

Conduit Development also reused the majority of their demolition materials and will be installing solar panels, as well as a drought-tolerant garden.

According to the EPA Energy Star Homes Program, home value increases by roughly $20 per every $1 reduction in annual utility costs. One trade off in the environmental equation: while ICF buildings use less wood, the production of its major raw material (cement) is one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases and mercury.

In a period where retrofitting and efficiency are on the tips of many a tongue, new approaches towards home efficiency are being called for. To satisfy new needs for energy efficiency and to possibly assist in the retrofitting of low-income homes.