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06.03.2009 Feature Article

Why Ghana Builders are Switching to ICFs

Why Ghana Builders are Switching to ICFs

According to the Portland Cement Association, “ICF wall-building crews report that their costs drop sharply until they have built 4 or 5 houses. After that they continue to realize savings.” In Ghana, these cost savings will be most realized in construction settings where the entire building envelope is built from start to finish. (A building envelope includes the foundation, floors, walls, windows, doors, and the roof.) Insulating concrete form (ICF) construction times are significantly quicker than masonry block construction. Because of this, Ghana builders will experience a greater profit margin when switching to ICF construction while still building a quality building.

Ghana builders are looking for ways to keep the occupants of their buildings cooler. ICFs are the building technology to meet that need. According to the laws of thermodynamics, heat always flows from hot to cold. In Ghana, in a building with a cooling unit, the heat outside will always try to warm up the building's interior air. With the EPS insulation found on ICF buildings, heat is effectively blocked from entering the building while the cooler air does not escape from inside.

Looking at this same concept from an air infiltration standpoint, according to E3 Design Group and Building Sciences, in “ICF homes with sealed attic construction…the CFM(50) infiltration rate is less than 0.25 CFM per square foot of floor area. For comparison purposes, a typical CMU block house with a vented attic has a CFM(50) of about 1.2 CFM per square foot. …This equates to a 79% reduction in infiltration and can result in significantly lower HVAC operating costs.” Basically, cooling systems in ICF homes can be smaller and operate less frequently than in any masonry home or building without insulation. This equates to lower electricity bills for occupants of ICF homes and buildings.

In the USA, one precaution to building with ICFs is the need to size mechanical equipment correctly. American mechanical contractors are often inexperienced in designing heating and air conditioning units for concrete homes. Ghana builders are accustomed to building concrete and sand-crete homes and are better able to adapt to ICF construction. An additional benefit in Ghana is that there is no need for heating units.

ICF construction also opens up new design possibilities for modern African architecture. Curved walls of any desirable radius are now possible in Ghana with the use of ICFs. Curved walls will have the same quality EPS insulation and concrete as straight walls, something unheard of in masonry block construction. Ghanaian architects can design circular rooms and curved buildings without compromising the structural integrity of the building. ICF construction opens up a whole new element in building architecture for Ghana.

Ghana builders are also looking for ways to increase the quality of their building construction. Not only will ICF construction lend itself to straighter walls, ICFs homes are much stronger and durable than traditional masonry construction. ICF construction resists mold, rot, decay, corrosion, and pest attack.

With the switch to ICF construction, Ghana builders are also making the move to sustainable building practices. There is a growing worldwide initiative to focus on sustainability. With Ghana's builders embracing this new building technology, Ghana can take her place in the global scene of the new Sustainable Revolution.

One possible set back is the cost for Ghana builders to stock up on the bracing required for ICFs. However, the alignment system is simply the equipment necessary for quality construction, much like the need for concrete mixers. An additional issue is the need for construction workers to be trained in the methods of ICF construction. The skills used for masonry construction are easily transferrable to ICF construction. Laborers can find their expertise in as little as three projects. With the aid of training seminars such as the GHANA ICF Conference and Ghanaian ICF builders such as Sirius Kay, Ghana's transition to ICFs should go very smoothly.

Resource box: Lakisha David is a construction manager for Light Ready Construction, LLC, specializing in ICFs. Want to know more about building with ICFs in Ghana? To find additional resources, including videos, go to Comments or questions can also be directed to [email protected]

Lakisha David
Lakisha David, © 2009

The author has 8 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: LakishaDavid

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