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05.03.2009 Feature Article

Ghana as Leader in Sustainable Building

Ghana as Leader in Sustainable Building

Many Ghanaians leave Ghana each year for the sole purpose of earning money to support their families and to build their homes back in Ghana. While in America, they have become doctors, lawyers, professors, retail workers, and other such professionals. Though their hearts are always with Ghana, they have been exposed to certain technologies that they would like to have in their homes in Ghana.

One of those technologies is the use of insulated concrete forms or ICFs. ICFs are a stay in place foam block that stacks to form foundation and structural walls. Once rebar is placed, concrete is poured into the cavity creating a 4 inch solid concrete wall with 2 ½ inches of insulation on each side. At 6.5 pounds each, the ICF straight block is 4 feet long and 1 ½ feet high covering 5.33 square feet.

Organizations such as Energy Star rate the ICF block as meeting sustainability and energy efficiency goals with an effective R-value of 32. Manufacturers report consumers as experiencing a 50 – 80% reduction in energy costs annually. Thermal imaging shows homes built with ICF blocks as having a temperature change of less than 2 percent. This means that during hot months, once the ICF home gets cool, it stays cool for longer periods of time as compared to a conventional built home. This feature further reduces the operating time of cooling or heating units. Conventional built homes show temperature changes of 11 – 20 degrees. In a country known for its fledging infrastructure, the ICF home in Ghana would use roughly half of the energy as needed for conventional built homes.

It is common practice for Ghanaian home builders to use concrete or sandcrete block for construction. This is a Ghanaian age old tradition that has changed little over the years. In this new age of sustainable building, Ghana may be poised to make the transition to building with ICFs quicker than developed countries.

The insulating concrete form is a concrete product. The skill set to build with concrete block is easily transferrable to stack ICF blocks. Crews accustomed to the weight of CMUs can work with greater speed with the 6.5 pound ICF block. Not only is the ICF block lighter, it also replaces 6 concrete blocks and covers 5.33 square foot of exterior wall space. That's no small benefit to the Ghanaian owner who would in turn save on the cost of labor.

Of course, as with any new technology, it often takes a strong market demand before new products become common in the marketplace. With the scarcity of ICF block manufacturers in Ghana, the transition may be a little slow. However, Africans in America are increasing becoming aware of the ICF block and wish to build with ICFs should the cost prove to be cost effective with the additional shipping charges.

Ghana has been called an underdeveloped country when compared to countries such as the United States or Canada. However, because of their customary concrete building practices, Ghana and other West African countries may very well become the leader in sustainable building.

Lakisha David
Light Ready Construction, LLC

Lakisha David
Lakisha David, © 2009

This author has authored 8 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: LakishaDavid

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