The Rising Trend of ICF Construction in California

ICF Home Californian

Builders and architects attribute the rising trend of insulated concrete form (ICF) construction in California to the state's push towards energy-efficient structures, along with the ever-present threat of wildfires and earthquakes. Notably, there are 2,044,800 households at risk of wildfire in California (more than any other state), and the state has the most damaging earthquakes in the country. Buildings and homes constructed with ICF are energy-efficient and will greatly contribute towards creating fire- and earthquake-resistant buildings and homes.

Energy-Efficient Construction in California

To keep up with California's strict energy standards, many builders and architects are turning to ICF construction. Structures built with ICF typically need 44 percent less energy to heat and 32 percent less energy to cool than similar wood-framed structures.

California's stringent building energy-efficiency standards aim to lessen energy costs, increase reliability and availability of electricity, improve building occupant comfort, and reduce impacts on the environment. The efforts have resulted in a drop in the state's per capita electricity consumption by 24 percent over the last 40 years. In comparison, the per capita energy consumption for the whole country decreased by only 4 percent.

The energy codes are found in the California Energy Code (part 6) and the California Green Building Standards Code (CALGreen) (part 11) of Title 24. Title 24 is the California Code of Regulations that includes the regulations that govern the construction of residential and non-residential buildings in California. New editions of these energy codes are published every three years. The most recent 2019 California Energy Code goes into effect in 2020 and applies to all building projects that request a building permit after 12/31/2019. The 2019 Code further pushes the building industry towards the goal of constructing energy-efficient new and remodeled residential and commercial buildings.

ICF Walls are a Superb Product for Achieving Energy-Efficient Structures in California

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ICF construction provides the thermal mass and a double layer of continuous insulation (CI), with no efficiency lost to thermal bridging, creating a tight building envelope that minimizes air leakage and improves indoor air quality.

Material with high thermal mass, like Fox Blocks ICFs, absorb and store heat energy and stabilize temperature changes within a building or home by slowing the rate of heat transfer. In addition, Fox Blocks ICFs have an R-value of 23 and provide a CI that exceeds the requirements of the Amer­i­can Soci­ety of Heat­ing, Refrig­er­at­ing and Air-Con­di­tion­ing Engi­neers ASHRAE 90.1) and the Inter­na­tion­al Ener­gy Con­ser­va­tion Code (2018 IECC).

Fire-Resistant ICF Construction in California

The increasing threat of wildfires in California calls for the use of fire-resistant products, like ICFs, in all new construction.

In 2018 there were 7,749 wildfires (a total of 1,823,153.2 acres) in California. It was the state’s deadliest year for fires, with more than 100 killed. The fires also set a record for destroying the most structures in one year in a single state: 703 commercial/mixed residential structures, 17,133 residences, and 5,811 minor structures.

Vital elements of fire-resistant construction include passive fire protection with fireproof roofs, windows, doors, vents, and exterior walls, like the ones built with Fox Blocks ICF wall systems. Passive fire protection guards the occupants of a structure and protects the building or home by controlling the spread of fire and smoke.

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After a San Diego wild­fire, only those built with ICFs remained.

Earthquake-Resistant ICF Construction in California

Due to the frequency of earthquakes in California, it is vital that all new construction in the state include earthquake-resistant materials, like ICFs, in all new construction.

Southern California has about 10,000 earthquakes every year, occurring on more than 500 active fault lines. Most of the earthquakes are small, but several hundred achieve a magnitude of 3.0, and 15-20 reach magnitudes of greater than 4.0. Of concern, most Californians live within 30 miles of an active fault and there is a 99 percent chance of a magnitude of a 6.7 plus earthquake within the next 30 years

ICF walls, like those built with Fox Blocks, contribute towards an earthquake-resistant building or home because they create shear walls that extend to the entire height and all sides of the structure. Importantly, the Portland Cement Association found that ICF walls have more structural amplitude and stiffness to resist the in-plane shear forces during strong winds or an earthquake than wood- and steel-framed walls.

The need for energy-efficient and fire- and earthquake-resistant structures is largely responsible for the rising trend of ICF construction in California. Buildings and homes in California constructed with Fox Blocks ICF are energy-efficient and significantly contribute towards protecting a structure and its occupants from the danger of wildfires and earthquakes.