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Insulated Concrete Form (ICF) Construction

D.F. Maher Architects - Builders, of Appleton, Wisconsin, designs and builds Insulated Concrete Form (ICF) homes. These homes are hurricane, tornado and wild fire resistant.

David Maher designs energy efficient homes using geothermal heating and cooling systems, along with radiant floor heat.

We have used many of the ICF forms available on the market today and have over the years established some preferences. The main element that all ICF forms have in common is that the insulating forms stay in place after the concrete is poured. All of the forms offer attachment points for drywall on the inside and siding, brick, stucco or stone on the outside.

One of the advantages of ICF construction, is that the resulting wall has a working insulating value of R-38 as calculated by Oak Ridge Laboratories. This is in contrast to our wood frame construction that results in an R-18 insulating value. The higher the number the higher the insulating value. The reason for the high ICF R-Value is that the insulated mass of concrete is resistant to change in temperature. It is the proverbial hot rock in the winter and cool rock in the summer. In addition to the energy efficiency, ICF construction, when designed properly, is also wind, fire, sound, water and insect resistant. The insurance rates on ICF Homes are nearly half that of standard wood frame construction. We have a photo in our brochure that shows a Mississippi subdivision that is virtually gone, wiped clean from its foundations by a tidal wave with only one home remaining. That home is an ICF home.

Recently, with the increase in the cost of energy, ICF homes have reached the point where it costs exactly the same to build and live in an ICF home as it does to build and live in a wood frame home. The payment coupons are a little different, however. With a traditional wood frame constructed home, the mortgage will be somewhat lower and the utility bill will be dramatically higher. With ICF construction, the mortgage will be somewhat higher but the utility bill will be dramatically lower. With ICF construction one pays more for the asset and less for utilities. One can sell the asset to someone else, however. Once burned, the fuel is gone into the atmosphere and the money is gone from your pocket, forever.

With the energy efficiency of the ICF construction, many of our clients prefer the addition of radiant floor hydronic heating. With this form of heating, hot water runs through tubing called pex (for crossed polyester) that runs under or through the floor. This heat makes the floor warm and this warmth radiates out to heat the objects in the room. Every room can have its own thermostat so that, for instance, the master bed room can be kept at sixty eight degrees and the master bath at seventy six degrees if one so desires. With radiant heat one might set the temperature of the floor to be seventy three degrees. If the temperature at the ceiling is checked it will be seventy degrees. The heat is concentrated where the people are. With our forced air systems, however, if the thermostat is set at seventy three degrees and one checks the temperature at the ceiling it will typically be one hundred and three degrees or higher. That is because hot air rises and this hot air, air that you paid to heat, does little towards keeping the occupants of the room warm. This is why, in many standard forced air situations, one's feet, calfs and knees get cold even when the room thermostat reads seventy two degrees.

As a further heating and ventilating efficiency, many of our clients are interested in geothermal heating and cooling. In our climate, this heat is taken from the ground, passed through a heat exchanger, and the heat is pumped into the home or business. A reverse process provides inexpensive cooling. While installing a geothermal system is more expensive than a standard forced air system, it more than pays for itself from the moment one moves into the home and turns it on. Geothermal heating and cooling is so efficient that it runs at forty cents on the dollar when compared to standard forced air systems. So once again, a home owner's mortgage will be slightly higher but the utility bill will be dramatically lower. As with all of the energy efficiencies detailed here, one is putting their money into an asset, an asset that appreciates over time and can be sold to someone else, rather than into utility bills. Once the utility bill is paid the money is gone forever.

While we have some unique plans in stock, all developed and copyrighted by us, we specialize in developing plans from our clients' ideas and synthesizing them into a beautiful and stunning whole. We produce these by building them in three dimensions on our computers so that our clients can virtually walk through them before we build them. There are few surprises when our clients move in because they have been virtually in and around the home exhaustively before we even dig.