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A growing phenomenon

ICF: A Global Market

ICF is taking off around the world thanks to the speed of construction, energy efficiency and design flexibility. It is used for residential and non-residential construction.

In the US over 35% of new dwellings are built with ICF – and use is growing rapidly at 5% per annum – especially in regions where hurricanes are frequent and the disaster resistant properties of ICF are so attractive.



Globally, the ICF market is growing exponentially and is currently worth $800million.

United Kingdom

About 4,000

It is understood that about 2% of the dwellings built in the UK are using ICF.

US Market


Leaders in ICF, the current US market is worth $200million and grows at about 5% per year.

Industrial Buildings

ICF is ideal for the construction of industrial or agricultural buildings but few if any are being built.

ICF: Revolutionising House Construction

ICF construction is certain to become a much more popular method of house building in the UK as a result of UK Government Plans for the UK Building Stock to be carbon neutral. These are now being reflected in Building Regulation changes:

The June 2022 revision of the Building Regulations is an interim measure
Required building standards will increase again in 2025
More onerous Air Leakage rules where ICF is so superior to all other systems
Measures to prevent Overheating that is significantly increased by the lack of Thermal Mass in Timber Frames and SIP will drive more users to ICF

ICF, Timber Frame or Cavity Walls?

In the UK the use of Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF) construction is limited to self-builders and a few developers but this is likely to change rapidly in the near future are the building industry gets to understand the unique properties of ICF construction.

How much does it cost?

Dwelling Walls cost about 23% of the Total House Cost.
ICF costs about 15% of the total Wall Cost
Or, about 3.5% of the Total House Cost
UK Housing Construction Market

Increasing Labour Costs

Builders who don’t move from traditional construction methods are likely to see labour costs increase exponentially. For instance, soon they will need to prove with photographs that the cavity walls comply with the Regulations – every Builder will be painfully aware of how much extra supervision this will require.

Reduced Workforce

To make matters even more difficult, the UK construction work force is reducing by 50,000 to 60,000 people per annum. And less than half of these are being replaced by apprentices.

A Cost Comparison


✓ £60 – £70 /m2 + cost of concrete + labour

✓ 10 days with semi-skilled labour to build up to eaves level

Timber Frame

✓ £80 – £100 /m2 + labour

✓ 2 weeks for quote and 10 weeks for delivery

Cavity Walls

✓ 50% of total cost is labour (£75+ /m2)

✓ 2 months to reach eaves level using skilled labour

Cavity Wall Disadvantages.

Cavity wall construction is a common method used in building exterior walls which involves two separate walls (known as leaves) with a gap or cavity between them. While cavity walls have several advantages, they also come with significant disadvantages:

If the cavity is not properly sealed or insulated, moisture can penetrate the wall. This leads to issues such as dampness, mold growth, and potential damage to the structure over time.

Cavity walls can still experience thermal bridging (where heat is conducted through the wall) reducing the overall energy efficiency of the building. Proper insulation is necessary to minimize this issue.

Insulation materials within the cavity can settle over time which reduces their effectiveness. Additionally, if insulation becomes wet due to moisture penetration it can lose its insulating properties.

Debris from construction materials or mortar droppings can accumulate in the cavity during construction, potentially causing issues with drainage and insulation properties.

Detecting and repairing issues within the cavity can be challenging without specialized equipment. This can make maintenance and repairs more complicated and costly.

In the event of a fire, the cavity can allow flames to spread quickly between floors or sections of a building. Fire-resistant cavity barriers are essential to mitigate this risk.

Building a cavity wall requires careful construction techniques to ensure both leaves are correctly aligned, properly tied together, and adequately insulated. If not done correctly, it can lead to structural issues.

The new rules in the June 2022 changes to the Building Regulations require every new dwelling to be tested for air leakage. When a cavity wall built house fails the costs of repair can be very high

Timber Frame Disadvantages.

Timber frame construction is a method that uses a frame of large wooden members to form the structural skeleton of a building. It has gained popularity due to its sustainability and efficiency. However, it also has some disadvantages that need to be considered:

Timber is vulnerable to moisture, which can lead to rot and decay. If not properly treated, protected, or maintained, timber frames can be damaged over time and affect the structural integrity of the building.

While timber can be treated to be fire-resistant, it is still more susceptible to fire than steel or concrete. Fire can spread quickly in timber-framed buildings, potentially leading to significant damage.

Wood is susceptible to pest infestation, including termites and wood-boring insects. Infestations can compromise the structural stability of the building if not detected and treated promptly.

Timber beams have limitations regarding their span which can impact the design of large spaces. Additional support structures or columns might be necessary for larger buildings which can affect the interior layout.

Timber can settle and shrink over time, leading to issues such as uneven floors and wall cracks. Proper construction techniques and allowances for settling must be considered during the building process and are difficult to avoid.

Timber frame buildings can transmit more noise compared to buildings made of other materials, especially if not properly insulated. Soundproofing measures might be required to mitigate this issue.

Timber frames require regular maintenance, including painting or sealing to protect against moisture and pests. Maintenance costs can add up over the life of the building.

In some regions, there might be a perception that timber-framed homes are of lower quality compared to those made of brick or concrete, potentially affecting the market value of the property.

Certain architectural designs might be challenging to achieve with timber frame construction. Particularly designs that require large open spaces without any supporting columns.

While wood is a renewable resource, the production of timber for construction can have environmental impacts if not managed sustainably, such as deforestation and habitat destruction.

ICF Construction

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