How Does the Cost of ICF Construction Compare to Other Types of Construction?
The simple answer to this question is “it depends.” It depends on the price of materials at the time not only for ICF’s and concrete, but for lumber and structural panels. It depends on location and what the code requirements in the area currently are such as for seismic events and high wind resistance. It depends on the exterior finishes desired. It depends on the availability of skilled labor and how fast the structure must be/can be built. It depends upon whether or not a comparison of wall assemblies considers the reduced costs of other requirements in the building such as the HVAC system. And it depends on the way cost is defined; is it “first cost,” is it net cost or is it operating cost. In other words, an ICF exterior envelope can be less expensive or more expensive to build with than traditional envelopes depending on the situation and the definition of cost.
In general, however, the rule of thumb for “first cost,” (the materials and the construction cost) is that ICF construction can range from .5% more to 4% including land more than traditional construction. When spread over the life of a building or more importantly over the time in which an occupant will inhabit the building, this additional cost is negligible. In the case of net cost and spreading the “first cost” over the life of the building or the time it is inhabited by the original owner, there is likely a savings over traditional construction as a result of reduced HVAC investment, lower energy costs, reduced maintenance and reduced owners insurance expense.
Factor in as well the significant benefits of comfort and a healthy environment that ICF construction brings, the quiet that results from keeping outside noise out , the resiliency in storms and other events created by mother nature, the safety from fire and the energy savings from a more efficient, nearly air tight insulating capacity and ICF construction provides value to building owners, operators and inhabitants that no other type of envelope construction can provide.