Most houses continue to have wood frames not because wood is the best or safest material, but because people have been constructing houses from wood for so long it’s an entrenched part of the construction sector. However, ICFs, or Insulated Concrete Forms, are becoming increasingly popular; they insulate, block sound, and maintain stability far better than traditional wood framing. They also have a high degree of disaster resiliency and greatly minimize the dangers of house fires.
For 2013, the U.S. Fire Administration reported 1,240,000 house fires. Houses constructed out of ICFs have key advantages in minimizing the damage and spread of these fires, such as:
– Minimizing the Spread of Fire: Insulated concrete walls are either coupled with or include an expanded polystyrene foam, which is both fire-retardant and non-toxic. Not only can these walls resist fire damage, they mitigate the spread of fire from room to room or, in the case of duplexes and apartment buildings, from home to home. Based on the Steiner Tunnel Test, in which materials are tested to see how far they carry flames, a tunnel built with ICFs carried the flames approximately one-fifth the distance that a similarly sized wooden frame tunnel did. Concrete itself can minimize the spread of flames, as it cannot catch fire and the material’s properties make it very slow to transfer or build up heat.
– Durability: Due to being fire-retardant, walls made with ICFs have a much lower risk of structural damage. The concrete itself is an additional protective measure against weakening walls: when subjected to flames and temperatures near 2000 degrees Fahrenheit, these concrete walls lasted for four hours with reduced structural damage; wooden frame walls, on the other hand, were able to last only one hour prior to collapse. Unlike walls made of wooden frames which weaken during house fires and can collapse, houses built with ICFs are more likely to stay standing as people leave the building and even long after the fire. This degree of structural stability is even more crucial for buildings with multiple stories, as failing walls have a cascading effect and one damaged floor leads to instability in the surrounding and higher floors.
Like with any fire prevention element, homeowners should also keep fire extinguishers in good condition and regularly check their smoke detectors. However, with ICFs becoming more and more popular in home and building construction, the risk of danger and damage from fires can be managed. When it comes to fire safety, wood vs. ICFs has a clear winner. For more information, please contact us at Fox Blocks.