Energy Efficient Construction Techniques

November 8, 2017 Posted by kyu7

Energy efficiency in building construction embraces a number of concerns, from building design, and choice of materials to the use of energy efficient construction techniques to enhance the building envelope – the barrier between the interior of the building and outdoors. This includes taking into consideration such matters as orienting the building to shade the windows and roof in the summer while maximizing the solar gain in winter; placing windows to provide natural light and lessen the need for electric lights to be on during the day; and the use of high efficiency windows, insulation, heating and cooling devices, and appliances. Advanced technologies have evolved to address all of these issues, but perhaps the most revolutionary advances have come about in the technique of building construction itself.

Insulated Concrete Form construction – or ICF building – is a way of constructing buildings which maximize energy efficiency. In ICF construction expanded polystyrene foam (like Styrofoam) blocks which interlock are stacked up in courses; steel rebar is placed inside them; and then they are filled with concrete. When the concrete sets the foam layers on the inside and outside act as insulation, creating an impervious thermal envelope which effectively prevents air leakage and resultant heat loss; and also reduces water vapor migration. The ICF blocks are of standard size, not made to the specifications of a particular building, and while they snap together in courses they must be cut to fit to a given length. Corner block sections come in 90° and 45° angles to adapt to the design of the architect. Apertures for windows, doors, and service utilities can be easily cut out of the foam by hand before the concrete is poured; and a wide variety of interior walling and exterior siding options are available.

The ICF construction technique creates a well-sealed thermal envelope which can reduce utility costs as much as 50%, and also reduce the need for larger, more costly heating and cooling systems. It also means that the building has no cold spots or drafts; that indoor air pollutants are reduced; that there is less likelihood of excessive moisture accumulation which can cause structural damage and adversely affect the health of the occupants; and that the atmosphere in the building is comfortable and much quieter than in a frame building. ICF concrete house walls are much stronger than stick construction and exceed all existing building code requirements for areas prone to tornados and hurricanes. They are also four times as fire resistant. ICF construction is a revolutionary advance in building technology. It is much faster to erect than any previous building method and requires less skilled labor, which has important implications for housing the world’s poor and for emergency housing construction in disaster relief efforts.

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