Real alternatives to timber frame construction exist and the one promising the greatest opportunity for better future buildings is Concrete and Insulating Concrete Formwork (ICF) construction.
So what is ICF?
ICF is a generic term used to describe factory-produced Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) components that when connected together on site are designed to create accurate and continuous moulds or formwork for concrete structure. Once completely filled with concrete on-site, the concrete building element formed within the ICF is the building structure, with the stay-in-place EPS formwork becoming both permanent thermal insulation and a substrate for finishing materials.
MAXMASS Construction Technologies have investigated all current commercially produced ICF products within Australasia and across the world. While all function in similar ways, few can be considered absolutely state-of-the-art., and even the most advanced systems can be considered early in an overall building system development cycle. The ways ICF is both made and used shows enormous potential for further development and growth. Product, system, application and market development are at the forefront of our work.
MAXMASS Construction Technologies have forged arrangements with a number of local and international ICF manufacturers for supply of core products and systems, and we provide specialised products, and services developed in-house to further enhance the potential of concrete and ICF building.
ICF is a generic description and not all proprietary products are necessarily equal. Some products work better than others in particular locations or project types and there can be many design and structural considerations that reveal the ideal selection.
We are experts in intelligent ICF Design and Construction and fully qualified to make recommendations and arrange the supply of products and training for particular projects. We can also provide design education, and even provide project management services and recommendations if required. See our Services menu for further information.
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Designing and Building with Concrete and ICF can sometimes present challenges when integrating other materials or systems, and even when Local Authorities ask difficult questions to satisfy compliance requirements. Many of these things have either been resolved already or on the radar as necessary accessories. We can in most cases help immediately with advice or solutions.
ICF construction works best when industrial construction methods are used. Industrial and Commercial buildings are completely different than timber frame buildings and Concrete and ICF construction opens the door to these more robust, efficient and intelligent methods of building for domestic scale projects.
MAXMASS Construction Technologies recommend that residential buildings be designed to use only reinforced concrete and structural steel as the primary structural materials and interface these with other technologically advanced systems for such things as composite steel/concrete or ICF formed suspended floors, steel roof structures and commercial style fitout components.
Most projects have specific requirements for interfacing products and systems and we have designed the approach to, and method of fabricating a range of metal, plastic and EPS components that allow many proprietary products to interact seamlessly in the construction process.
ICF construction in many locations is regarded an 'alternative solution' for compliance with regulatory requirements and this often requires components additional to many core ICF systems in order for the system to gain approval easily. Additionally, many other building components such as windows, doors, pipe penetrations etc can require specialised detail accessories.
Talking to us about ICF construction can reveal many opportunities to make the most informed and best decisions on what system is most appropriate and what may be needed to meet compliance requirements. This should be carried out either before or very early in the design phase of a development or building project to ensure all the people and professionals involved are on the same page with a clear understanding of what the most effective approach can be. Once the approach to the construction is known, the requirements for the range and type of additional componentry can be determined and we can arrange the design and fabrication of these items as needed.
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AIRFORM is our cool new name for Expanded Polystyrene products. It fits perfectly with the way we see EPS and Concrete structures interfacing and particularly how it can be used to form and shape liquid concrete.
When considering concrete and ICF construction we like to use the term EPEC (Expanded Polystyrene Encapsulated Concrete) which suggests a holistic approach to ICF construction.
While ICF can be considered the core generic system for a building, the EPS components do not necessarily need to be confined to the ICF system itself. To make a concrete and ICF building project work to its best potential, from construction efficiency to the best possible levels of building performance, a number of additional EPS products can be used. These can include specially cut and formed EPS panels for a variety of applications, to better under floor insulation and slab forming, to specifically profiled sheets and panels for insulating steel and concrete composite suspended slab floors and roofs.
As an example, parapet walls often present problems for water-proofing and integration of membrane products. This can be resolved with specifically profiled parapet profiles. Similarly, window and door openings often require specially designed profiles that suit particular window systems or a particular architectural appearance. These can be resolved with EPS profiles and components integrated into a particular ICF system and put in place either before or directly following concrete placement for immediate finishing.
Our brand of AIRFORM EPS componentry can also extend beyond the immediate building envelope and provide such things as bulk infill behind retaining walls, panel products, profiled free-draining infills or any special products made to satisfy a specific purpose.
Within our own processes of creating technical solutions for Concrete and ICF buildings, we have needed to resolve architectural detail challenges in elegant and replicable ways to facilitate construction and meet building code compliances. We have in every case worked out what does work and what does not, and this has built up an extensive knowledgebase on which we can continue to develop and offer new solutions. With Concrete and ICF construction early in its development cycle, we see new solutions as open-ended opportunities.
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ICF is an extremely logical and direct method of building if it is well planned and the correct range of equipment and tools are used.
All ICF construction requires a range of specialised equipment for the fast and accurate placement of ICF components and particularly the alignment and bracing of assembled formwork prior to the placement of the structural concrete.
From our experience in ICF building design and construction we have identified many areas of the construction process where various standard equipment can be enhanced with additional equipment. Site safety and ease of use are of paramount importance, and we have identified alternative approaches to the erection of ICF vertical structures that can resolve many challenges on small projects or projects in locations that require specialised solutions.
ICF wall bracing and alignment systems are the most important equipment required for ICF construction and there are a number of excellent bracing systems available internationally. We can arrange the supply and shipping of a selected range of these, along with other generic equipment specific for ICF construction.
We are also developing a new lightweight ICF wall bracing and alignment system that may prove to be a very effective solution on confined building projects or sites where access and site safety is more challenging. We are also developing a number of smaller items that aid in efficiently integrating and connecting ICF systems and other components together with greater speed and efficiency.
Concrete and ICF construction is unique in that it offers a completely different way of building than traditional methods. This offers massive opportunities to take new paths and revitalise the very meaning of constructing residential buildings and in particular the business of building.
Concrete and ICF construction is a mature industry and has therefore defined many directions in the way the ICF building process is carried out and the specialised equipment required. In most cases the equipment is essentially a defined size of building kit consisting of equipment that can be used across many building types and architectural styles. We can work with construction professionals to define their needs and recommend various types of equipment, and if required, arrange the supply of all items required to get started in this exciting, modern and future-focussed method of building.