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Energy-conscious Atlantic builders have made ICFs a new tradition.

By Noreen Heighton

Atlantic Canada new home builders are the most prolific R-2000 builders in the country and are known for progressive methods of construction. Many of them say they are now answering demand for Insulated Concrete Forms (ICFs) in home construction. In fact, white-walled ICF homes are more common across Atlantic Canada than anywhere else in the country.
Ken Allen of Braemar Management Inc. in Salisbury, New Brunswick, says demand for ICFs is coming from informed and environmentally-conscious consumers, many of whom are second- or third-home owners. They've learned, he said, that ICF systems are energy efficient, allergy free, virtually soundproof, and ideal for high-density areas because of four-hour protection against fire.
Doug Forbes, president of the New Brunswick Home Builders Association, says his company, D.C. Forbes Ltd. of Fredericton, uses Nudura ICFs made by IsoMatrixx Building Products Ltd. for the foundations of more than half the homes they build. To ensure waterproofing, Forbes uses Bakor Blue Skin in rolls 66 feet long and 4 feet wide on the outside of the foundation.
"On the inside," Forbes says, "you can just screw drywall right to it." He adds that the foam is easily gouged out for wiring and the product makes a completely airtight wall that offers superior insulation. "With the foam and concrete, you get at least R-25, compared to R-16 or R-17 in conventional framing, once thermal bridging is factored in. You have to use extra foam to bring it up to R-25, which lessens the price gap between ICF and conventional framing."

Renovation concerns
However, conventional foundation framing is still used widely throughout Atlantic Canada. Mike Lee, general contractor for Donovan Homes Inc. of Mount Pearl, Newfoundland, says he thinks the ICF system, although "a bit pricey", is the way of the future. He used ICFs "to the roof" of the Eastern Newfoundland Home Builders Association office in St. John's and liked working with foam. But in the 110 homes he built last year he opted for "tried and true" wood form and concrete foundations. With proper drainage and waterproofing, Lee says, conventional foundations work just as well.
Ross Burgoyne in Prince Edward Island agrees. Burgoyne Construction Ltd. in Charlottetown has never used ICF systems, despite the decade-long availability in PEI. Burgoyne says: "We put foam on the exterior of our concrete foundations and our basements are dry, warm and cheaper than ICFs." He says electrical and window systems take greater planning with ICFs, which slows construction, and there is less flexibility for future renovations. His clients, who spend upwards of $500,000 for a new home, are less conscious of energy costs than most homeowners, he suggests.
Energy costs in Nova Scotia convinced Scotian Homes of Enfield to use foam-and-concrete foundations in its R-2000 homes. The company has built more than 30 in the last two years, using Truefoam ICFs. Denise Doyle, construction coordinator for Scotian Homes, says builders like it because "it goes together like LEGO® blocks" and is cleaner to use than conventional framing. After applying Blue Skin to the Truefoam, the builder covers the foam with pressure-treated plywood to protect it from damage. Then he or she smooths on Parge Plus, a cement covering that gives the basement a conventional look.
ICFs are manufactured in Atlantic Canada by Truefoam Ltd., based in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, and by Newfoundland Styro, based in Bishop's Falls, Newfoundland and Labrador.


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