Fox Blocks insulated concrete form (ICF) construction reduces labor costs because Fox Blocks ICF is an all in one wall system that integrates five steps into one quick and easy installation. Therefore, builders can construct an ICF Mixed use, Multi-family commercial building faster and with less labor than either wood-frame or concrete masonry (CMU) construction. ICF walls also create moisture-resistant, disaster-resistant, durable, energy-efficient and quiet building-homes.

Construction Worker Shortage are Driving Labor Costs Up and Slowing Housing Starts
Combat Rising Construction Labor Costs with ICF 1

Since the housing bust of 2008, home construction recovery in the United States (U.S.) has been slow with fewer homes starts the past ten years than the historical norm. Blamed for the sluggish recovery are several factors: scarcity of home sites in high-demand areas, the rising cost of building materials, and a lack of construction labor.

The construction labor shortage is escalating labor costs and slowing the building market. In fact, in October 2018, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that there were 292,000 construction job openings, the most since the housing boom. Furthermore the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) analysis of government data reported in August 2018 there were 298,000 unfilled construction sector jobs. Of concern, a recent NAHB survey found that 90 percent of single-family builders struggle to find rough carpenters.

The reasons the construction industry is finding it difficult to rebuild the construction labor force since the recession are attributed mainly to the industry not attracting millennials and also the immigration policies under the current administration. The latter is most significant since 25 percent of construction workers are immigrants; even higher in some regions of the U.S. like California (42 percent) and Texas (41 percent).

Concernedly, labor shortages are profoundly affecting regions in the U.S. recently impacted by devastating natural disasters and now requiring massive rebuilding efforts, like Texas and the Carolinas. The worker shortages in these areas are intensely lowering production volume and increasing the cost of labor to rebuild.  

ICF Construction Reduces Labor Costs

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ICF construction is gaining momentum because ICF offers reduced labor costs, improved comfort, and greater energy efficiency and safety ratings over traditional building methods. Notably, the global ICF market is predicted to attain a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 27.5% between 2017 and 2022.  

Currently, North America dominates the market for insulated concrete forms, followed by Europe. However, regions of South America and the Asia-Pacific are also expected to increase their ICF market share in the future.

How Fox Blocks ICF Construction Reduces Labor Costs

Fox Blocks ICF construction is an excellent solution to rising labor costs because Fox Blocks ICF requires less labor and takes less time to build than either CMU and wood-frame construction.

Fox Blocks ICF wall system is easy and fast to install because it is an all in one wall system that integrates five steps into one, including structure/concrete form, air barrier,  insulation, vapor retarder, and furring for finish attachment. The all in one feature quicken project delivery by removing the need to coordinates multiple trades, while achieving all of the wall system’s goals.

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Fox Blocks ICFs takes half the time and requires less labor to construct than concrete masonry unit walls.

– A CMU wall requires an application of insulation. Applying insulation over the CMU wall adds another trade to the job site. The additional trade adds one more day of expensive labor to the project.  

– A CMU wall often requires the installation of an air and moisture barrier; further adding another trade and more labor to the project.

– ICFs are lightweight which speeds construction time over CMU.

Fox Blocks ICF walls take less time and require less labor to construct than wood-frame walls. ICF reduces labor costs, over wood frame labor costs, by eliminating the need for:

– the framing laborers for exterior walls

– the insulation installation labor on the interior of the envelope

– the labor for removal of concrete forms after pouring the foundation

– the framing labor for finishing the interior of the foundation wall

– the labor for insulation installation for the foundation wall

– the labor for applying the poly vapor barrier

The lack of the younger workers entering the construction trades and recent immigration policies are contributing to the current construction labor shortage. The shortage is escalating labor costs and slowing the pace of construction, which is affecting the builder’s profits and driving up the cost of new home construction.

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A solution to reducing labor costs and combating the ever-increasing labor shortages in the construction trades is the Fox Blocks ICF.  Fox Blocks ICFs integrate five steps into one quick and easy installation; therefore, Fox Blocks ICFs multi-family buildings or homes are built faster and with less labor than either wood-frame or CMU construction.

Fox Blocks insulated concrete forms (ICFs) and Superior Walls both create disaster-resistance and non-toxic wall systems. They also can claim quick and easy installation of their products. However, Fox Blocks have several advantages over Superior Walls. Fox Blocks are more energy-efficient, and moisture- and fire- resistant than Superior Walls.

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Superior Walls – Insulated Precast Concrete Panels

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Superior Walls are insulated precast concrete panels used for a basement foundation, crawl space foundation, above-grade walls, and multi-level concrete walls.

What are Superior Walls?

Manufacturing of Superior Walls occurs in a factory. The walls are pre-insulated with 1-inch DOW Styrofoam, with an R-5 rating. The casting of the steel reinforced horizontal layer of the concrete beam and 2-inch-thick concrete facing is in one continuous pour at the factory.

Increasing the Superior Wall’s R-value, up to R-26, is done by adding insulation to the 7-1/2-inch-deep wall cavity between the studs. A triple bead of Bostik Chem-Caulk provides a watertight sealant at the panel seams. A 4-inch perforated drain pipe is set 12-inches from the precast wall to channel water away from the foundation. Panels are typically 16 feet long with standard heights of 4-foot, 4-foot 8 inches, 8-foot 2-inches, 9-foot, and 10-foot.

Problems with Insulated Precast Concrete Panels

It is vital that builders are aware of several problems associated with insulated precast concrete panels, like Superior Walls. Insulated precast concrete panels lack moisture and fire-resistance and may require regular maintenance.

Moisture Problems with Insulated Precast Concrete Panels

Moisture may enter a precast concrete wall system through improper detailing or cracks in the panel that can occur during the cooling and drying after the curing process. Both cases can cause widespread water problems due to condensation forming within the wall construction.

What is Condensation?

Condensation occurs when warm air, from either the inside or outside of the building, travels towards the cooler interior wall system. Condensation in the wall assembly also occurs when water vapor flows from an area of higher concentration towards an area of lower concentration. Finally, condensation may occur on the wall elements (windows, curtain wall, or metal framing components) if they are not adequating separated or insulated from the precast panels.

Moisture can cause substantial damage to finish materials and can corrode and deteriorate the metal components, such as structural connections and metal wall framing. In addition, moisture may result in mold and mildew, which is unhealthy to the occupants of a building and can cause wood rot.

Thermal Performance Problems with Precast Concrete Panels

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Precast wall panels derive their thermal performance characteristics mainly from the amount of insulation placed in the cavity or within the backup wall. The Superior Walls have R values of 5 and 12.5. However, additional insulation may be placed in the extra cavity space so that the walls can achieve R values of over 50.

Routine Maintenance Required for Precast Concrete Panels

If a sealer or concrete coating is used on the precast concrete panels for aesthetics or to reduce moisture penetration into the panel, the sealer or coating will require reapplication. The time frame for reapplication of the sealant and surface protection systems varies but typically is needed every 7 to 20 years.

ICF vs Superior Walls

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Fox Blocks provide a solution to the problems associated with Superior Walls. Fox Blocks are more energy-efficient and moisture-, and fire-resistant than Superior Walls. Also, Fox Blocks are disaster-resistant, noise reducing, and healthy. Notably, Fox Blocks are easy to install, which saves time and money.

Fox Blocks are More Energy-Efficient than Superior Walls

Fox Blocks are more energy-efficient that Superior Walls. Fox Blocks are a high thermal mass product that provides continuous insulation and an R-value of 23+. Superior Walls has R values of only 5 and 12.5 without additional insulation.

Fox Blocks are More Moisture-Resistant than Superior Walls

Fox Blocks also produce a solid continuous monolithic concrete jointless wall with a perm rating of less than 1.0, which controls moisture infiltration. Moreover, Fox Blocks two layers of continuous interior and exterior EPS insulation give added protection against water intrusion. Together, the EPS and concrete create air and vapor barriers on both sides of the Fox Wall, which more efficiently stops condensation and moisture accumulation than Superior Walls.

Fox Blocks are More Fire-Resistant than Superior Walls

A premium product for a fire-resistant construction is Fox Blocks ICF. Fox Blocks’ fire-resistance rating is (ASTM E119) 2 hours for the 4-inch blocks and 4 hours for the 6-inch blocks. Also, Fox Blocks have ASTM E84  value for smoke development of less than 450 and flame speed of less than 25.

For more information on ICF vs. superior walls, please visit Fox Blocks.

Fox Blocks ICF Cabins and Cottages are Safe, Comfortable, and Energy-Efficient.

Fox Blocks insulated concrete forms (ICFs) create cozy cabins and cottages that are energy-efficient, wind and fire-resistant, durable, healthy and quiet. Other notable benefits of an ICF cabin are low maintenance and low utility costs. These benefits are vital to cabin and cottage owners who want a low-stress escape from their hectic lives; not a place that creates more work and financial concerns.

In addition, ICF construction ensures year-round use of the cabin. Cabins and cottages often start as a second home or weekend retreat. However, a report by the National Association of Realtors found that four out of 10 second-home owners intend to convert their second home into a year-round primary residence in retirement. Therefore, designing a cabin or a cottage for year-round use is a wise choice. For an energy-efficient, moisture-, and disaster-resistant cabin or cottage, Fox Blocks ICF is an excellent material choice.

ICF Cabins and Cottages are Energy-Efficient, and Moisture- and Disaster-Resistant

icf cottage

ICF Cabins are Energy-Efficient

An energy-efficient ICF cabin minimizes air intrusion which lowers energy use and saves the cabin owner money. An essential design element of an energy-efficient, year-round cabin is a tight building envelope. Critical to a tight building envelope is continuous insulation, with a product such as Fox Blocks wall system. The tight building envelope must also include energy-efficient windows, skylights, and doors suitable to the cabin’s climate zone and roof system. ICFs wall assemblies and energy-efficient glazings and roof systems create a year-round cabin with a tight building envelope that reduces energy use and provides year round financial savings.

ICF Cabins are Moisture-Resistant

A moisture-resistant cabin that limits, if not prevents, moisture accumulation in the wall system, is vital to stopping the growth of mold, which degrades the indoor environmental quality (IEQ) of a cabin. Mold diminishes the IEQ of a cabin because people that inhale or touch mold may experience allergic and asthmatic reactions. Moisture-resistant design is vital to building a healthy cabin.

ICF Cabins are Wind-Resistant

ICF cabin wall construction creates a strong continuous path that ensures the cabin will retain its integrity against winds over 200 mph. A report by the Portland Cement Association (PCA), compared the structural load resistance of  ICF walls to conventionally framed walls. The study found that ICF walls have more structural capacity and stiffness to withstand the in-plane shear forces of severe winds than steel- or wood-framed walls. A cabin built with ICF has the strength and integrity to resist winds over 200 mph. Also, ICF wall construction is a cabin’s best protection against wind-driven debris.

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ICF Cabins are Fire-Resistant

ICF fire-resistant design protects a cabin and its occupants from fires. The need of fire-resistant construction has escalated in recent years, due in part to an increase in massive wildfires.

Fox Blocks ICF Cabins are Energy-Efficient and Moisture- and Disaster-Resistant

– Fox Blocks, with an R-value of 23+, provide continuous insulation and exceed ASHRAE/ANSI 90.1 energy code requirements. Cabins constructed with ICF exterior walls typically use 32 percent less energy to cool and 44 percent less energy to warm than comparable wood-framed cabins.

– Fox Blocks’ high thermal mass contributes to an energy-efficient and cozy cabin. High thermal mass materials absorb and store heat energy and stabilize temperature changes within the cabin by slowing the rate of heat transfer.

– Fox Blocks is a solid continuous monolithic concrete wall with a perm rating of less than 1.0, which controls moisture accumulation and prevents the growth of mold, mildew, and rot in a cabins wall system.

– Fox Blocks are disaster-resistant: Fox Blocks (with steel reinforced concrete) can endure tornado and hurricane winds exceeding 200 MPH and projectile debris traveling over 100 MPH.

– Fox Blocks are fire-resistant. Fox Blocks’ fire-resistance rating (ASTM E119) is 4-hours for the 6-inch blocks and 2-hours for the 4-inch blocks.

Foundation Requirements of An ICF Cabin

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An ICF cabin must have a strong and durable foundation that will transfer the weight and load of the cabin safely to the ground during earthquakes and high winds. The best foundation system for the cabin considers the type and bearing capacity of the soil at the building site, settling, frost, and water.

A foundation must provide strength and stability and protect the cabin from subsidence and settlement. Subsidence is when soil moves away from the cabin. The settlement is when the weight of the cabin forces soil to move away, causing the cabin to sink into the ground. An additional critical element to below grade ICF foundations is a waterproofing membrane and a reliable drainage system. For long-term durability, an ICF cabin must have a strong foundation.

Fox Blocks insulated concrete forms create comfortable, year-round cabins that are energy-efficient, healthy, durable, and disaster-resistant. These elements are vital to providing cabin owners with a retreat for leisure and rest, that is low-maintenance and doesn’t drain their pocketbooks but puts money back into it. Fox Blocks are an ideal material choice for a year-round cabin that is energy-efficient and moisture-, and disaster-resistant.

Fox Blocks create energy-efficient walls with continuous insulation and vapor control.

An energy-efficient wall system, like Fox Blocks, contributes towards a tight energy-envelope and continuous interior and exterior insulation for the whole building. Other parts of the envelope include the foundation, roof, and openings (windows, doors, skylights, ventilators). All parts of a high-performing building envelope must serve as barriers that control the intrusion of rain, vapor, air and the transfer of thermal radiation (heat). A high-quality energy-efficient wall minimizes air inflation and blocks the flow of heat. An energy-efficient wall also controls water and vapor intrusion and protect against thermal radiation.  

Continuous Insulation Controls Heat and Air Transfer Through a Wall

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Use of continuous insulation across all structural members of a building’s envelope is essential to minimizing air inflation and preventing the flow of heat by conduction, convection, and radiation. Continuous insulation also prevents thermal bridging, which is a common issue with conventional construction like wood and metal framing. Importantly, the ASHRAE 90.1 and the 2018 IECC require continuous insulation in both commercial and residential structures.

The ASHRAE Standard 90.1-2013 defines continuous insulation as insulation that is uncompressed and continuous across all structural members without thermal bridges other than fasteners and service openings. These standards define the amount of insulation required, based on the building’s climate zone, to minimize air infiltration, stop thermal bridging and increase the effective R-value in a wall system. The most useful method of minimizing air infiltration is by installing continuous insulation, along with an air and moisture barrier, in accordance with  ASHRAE 90.1 and 2018 IECC codes and standards to any part of the building envelope that does not admit light.

Water and Vapor Control of an Energy-Efficient Wall System

energy efficient wall system

Construction of an energy-efficient wall must control intrusion of rain, groundwater, and vapor. The design of an energy-efficient wall also stops thermal convection and air- and moisture-infiltration through a variety of methods.

1. Install Overhangs to Limit Water Intrusion

The first line of protection against moisture intrusion are overhangs, which keep the water away from the walls. The cladding also limits water intrusion to the interior of the wall system. However, some cladding systems can absorb significant amounts of moisture; therefore, the design of wall assemblies must also manage the inward flow of moisture from groundwater and rain.

2. A Tightly-Sealed Building Envelope Limits Thermal Convection

Thermal convection occurs when heat moves by the flow of liquid or air molecules from the hotter to the cooler side of a wall. Uncontrolled thermal convection causes drafty homes and buildings and is often the greatest source of energy loss in a structure. In wood-frame construction, convection happens through the framing connections, floor, wall, roof, and fenestration intersections. A tightly sealed building envelope with a high-quality air and moisture barriers can prevent thermal convection and create a comfortable, draft-free, environment for the occupants.

3. Control Air and Moisture Infiltration with a WRB

A vapor-permeable, weather-resistant barrier (WRB) is an essential element of an energy-efficient wall assembly for air and moisture control in humid and warm climates. A WRB shields a structure from air and water infiltration. A WRB also lets water escape from the wall assembly, which protects a structure from deterioration and damage. High-quality WRBs are both moisture- and air-resistant and permeable to vapor. A WRB ensures a structure is energy-efficient, healthy and comfortable.

Low Emissivity and High Reflectivity of an Energy-Efficient Wall

Thermal radiation moves heat from warm areas to cooler spaces by electromagnetic waves, which for buildings is primarily the sun’s rays. Thermal radiation will occur between two surfaces in view of each other; they do not require a substance, like air and water, to move through space. All materials reflect, absorb, and emit radiant energy. A material’s ability to radiate absorbed energy, or emit energy as thermal radiation, is called emissivity. A high emissivity material has low reflectivity and will quickly absorb energy that strikes it.

The cladding of an energy-efficient wall should include materials with low emissivity and high reflectivity so to limit the absorption of radiant heat. Two examples of energy-efficient cladding systems in the market are exterior insulation and finish systems (EIFS) and insulated metal wall panels.

How Fox Blocks Create Energy-Efficient Walls

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Fox Blocks are two foam panels filled with concrete and reinforced with steel rebar that build energy-efficient walls with continuous insulation and vapor control.

– Fox Blocks insulated concrete forms exceed ASHRAE/ANSI 90.1 energy code requirements, and create sustainable buildings with superb moisture resistance and energy performance.

– Fox Blocks provides a solid continuous monolithic concrete wall with a perm rating of less than 1.0, which controls moisture intrusion and prohibits the growth of mold, mildew, and rot.

– Fox Blocks also provide continuous insulation with an R-value of 23, which create an airtight building envelope with better performance than wood- or steel-frame construction.

Fox Block Series is also fast and easy to install because it is a one wall assembly. Please contact Fox Blocks for more information on building energy-efficient walls.

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