HighR – Benefits of an ICF Custom Home, ICF Custom Home Builder

Green Building Made Easy with Insulated Concrete Forms

Sustainable or green building practices promote the construction of buildings that are healthier for the occupants and healthier for the environment. They reduce the tremendous impact that building construction, operation, maintenance, and disposal have on both people and nature. According to the U.S. Department of Energy's Center for Sustainable Development, buildings consume 40-50% of the world's total energy, 25% of its wood harvest and 16% of its water. The building industry is the nation's largest manufacturing activity, representing more than 50% of the nation's wealth.

A recent report by the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) promotes Green Building for the Biggest, Easiest Cuts in CO2 Emissions. Energy-saving technologies applied in buildings can result in enormous reductions in demand for fossil fuels and emissions of greenhouse gases, usually with long-term net income (not cost)!

Insulated Concrete Forms are one key technology because they provide an ultra-efficient, high mass, high strength, and very durable building shell that keeps occupants healthy and comfortable.

Insulated Concrete Forms vs other Building Materials

    Quad-Lock ICF vs Wood Frame Construction

    A Quad-Lock building is:

  • Ultra Energy-Efficient because of continuous EPS insulation (higher & uniform R-value), greatly reduced air infiltration, and the thermal mass effect of concrete. Learn more
  • Much more Comfortable and Healthy because of very even inside temperatures (no cold spots or nasty drafts), far better sound attenuation, and low risk of mold growth and allergen infiltration.
  • Longer-lasting and more resistant to natural disasters, rot, mold, and pests because the solid reinforced concrete is up to 8 times stronger and nearly impenetrable (even for car crashes) - it's what gives bunkers their strength! Learn more
  • Quad-Lock ICF vs other Insulating Concrete Forms

  • Quad-Lock allows the highest range of insulation values. Different combinations of Quad-Lock Panels give you the choice of true R-Values of 22, 28, 38, 43, 53, and 59. Don't trust claims about "effective R-Values" - often cited as "R-50" for R-22 ICFs - which are unscientific and prohibited by advertising laws.
  • Quad-Lock creates much less waste compared to ICF block systems because most parts that need to be cut can be reused in the same project (see Reduce, Reuse & Recycle Tips). Quad-Lock typically adds a 2-4% waste factor in estimates & quotes (some installers can achieve 1% or less!), while many projects using ICF blocks need a 5-8% waste factor - often not included in estimates. A price per square foot of forms is NOT suitable for comparisons because you need to add the waste factor, structural bracing for corners and angles, zip-ties or clips to hold ICF blocks together, method to align walls along top and bottom, plywood wrap-arounds on openings, etc. along with all the associated labor costs!
  • Most Quad-Lock items are in stock ready for shipping wheras many competitors require long lead times to first produce what you order. In addition, it means their forms are often still moist and not shrunk down to final size.
  • Quad-Lock offers less thermal bridging because internal buck-outs are made easy. "External bucks" - the only option for most ICF blocks - create a significant thermal bridge around every window and door opening.
  • Quad-Lock is highly versatile using a few standard parts. Quad-Lock can easily be shaped to form all the design elements of modern buildings - wide openings, arches, corners, any angles, and real curves with almost any radius.
  • Quad-Lock has very strong corners because of ingenious metal brackets and plastic ties - no additional bracing or zip-ties needed, because they're built-in!
  • Quad-Lock costs less to ship and store compared to most ICF block systems because it is a flat panel & tie system. Up to 100% more wall area can be shipped per truckload. With Quad-Lock, you're not shipping air!
  • Quad-Lock is ISO 9001 certified to assure and continuously improve product & service quality.
  • Quad-Lock offers lots of technical and instructional support. Local dealers and distribution partners are equipped to answer your questions, prepare detailed estimates, and assist at the jobsite. Quad-Lock Sales Representatives are also ready to assist with quantity pricing, job site training, product seminars etc. Our Installation Video, Product Manual, and other informative technical and promotional literature tells you exactly how to build with Quad-Lock. Read more about Value & Service.
  • Quad-Lock produces a flat, solid concrete wall providing a constant thickness of concrete throughout the wall (no thin/thick sections like grid or post-and-beam systems).
  • Quad-Lock is Code Approved. See approvals & tests.
  • Commercial & Multi-Storey - Advantages over other ICFs

  • No other ICF can build around pre-tied rebar as easily as Quad-Lock.
  • No other ICF can be assembled with as little laborers' exposure to the outside of a multi-storey structure. Quad-Lock's unique Corner, Angle, and T-wall solutions allow building from the safety of the inside of the building. This minimizes the amount of outside scaffolding required, the risk of long falls for workers, and workers' compensation premiums.
  • No other ICF can build columns and pilasters like Quad-Lock. Almost every commercial project needs them.
  • Few other ICFs can offer the range of wall thicknesses that Quad-Lock can. See Quad-Lock Ties & Extender Ties.
  • Few other ICF companies offer access to a LEED AP (Accredited Professional) who can help designers identify & accrue LEED points for Quad-Lock projects.
  • No other ICF integrates concrete walls and concrete floors or roofs as well. Quad-Lock developed and tested unique solutions, such as Slab Brackets & Ties, and actively sells and supports an ICF for concrete floors & roofs, allowing lower freight costs by combining wall and floor shipments.
  • Quad-Lock offers Green Roof technology with a rot-resistant roof structure that will carry the loads imposed by these designs. Learn more about Green Roofs.

Resilient Building Construction with Insulated Concrete Forms

Rebuilding after a natural disasters, such as a hurricane or tornado, can be a daunting task. With the Quad-Lock Concrete Building System you can turn the devastation into an opportunity to invest in stronger, healthier, and energy-efficient buildings that increase occupant safety, reduce costs of insurance, maintenance and reconstruction, and cut their environmental footprint and energy costs.

  • High Wind Resistance - concrete buildings can be designed to stand up to hurricanes and tornadoes
  • Impact Resistance - concrete walls and roofs can withstand the impact of most flying debris from extreme winds with little or no structural damage. Even a flying car was stopped by a Quad-Lock wall!
  • Seismic Resistance - the steel reinforcement and concrete can be designed to minimize the risk of building collapse due to earthquakes
  • Elevated Building Construction provides:

  • Flood Resistance - as seen in many coastal communities for decades, raising the entire building by putting it on "stilts" or pilings simply makes flood waters stay below the main structure causing minimal, if any, damage. See NY Times article.

Quad-Lock's Insulating Concrete Forms accomplish all of the above, plus:

  • Fast Rebuilding - by combining many construction steps into one step, often shaving weeks or months off construction schedules
  • Better Health & Comfort - peace & quiet, no drafts or cold spots, improved indoor air quality, no food source for mold
  • Amazing Energy Efficiency - high & continuous insulation and low air-infiltration are built-in to provide significant energy savings

Financial Analysis & Incentives for Insulated Concrete Forms

How a Cozy, Sustainable & Resilient Building Costs Less

- Borrower finances 100% of Building Upgrades - 4.25% 30-year mortgageTraditional Home & MortgageQuad-Lock Home & Energy-Efficient Mortgage
Energy, Resilience, IEQ Upgrade Costs --- $21,000
Home Value $300,000 $321,000
Down Payment $64,200 $64,200
Mortgage Amount $235,800 $256,800
Monthly Mortgage Payment (P & I) $1,160 $1,263
Monthly Heating & Cooling Cost $300 $150
Monthly Insurance Cost $150 $100
Total Monthly Payments $1,610 $1,513

A much Better Building for Less with the upgrades paid for!

So even after paying for the additional cost of Quad-Lock and other matching upgrades, you're still saving over $1,000/year without even considering higher resale values, health, productivity, inflation, nor any incentives. Unfortunately the traditional construction-industry model has a serious flaw: usually construction is very focused on reducing First-Cost of a building without adequately addressing the much higher Operating Costs (nor Indoor Environmental Quality "IEQ") that the owner and occupants will have to bear for the long lifetime of the building. This conflicts with the goals of the owner/operator and inhabitants, who often aren't even aware that most buildings' Total Lifetime Operating Costs (60-95%) far exceed First-Cost (5-40%). To resolve the conflict, you should understand your Total Cost of Building Ownership using your own assumptions about future prices and values, so you can instruct the building team accordingly. In addition to the significant energy-savings of Quad-Lock building shells, many insurance companies now recognize that resilient construction greatly reduces the risks and premiums. In coastal and high-wind areas, those insurance savings alone can create enourmous value for building owners. Summing up the energy + insurance savings and the value of much longer expected life-cycles of reinforced concrete construction, the Total Cost of Building Ownership is usually lower than wood-frame construction, often by astounding amounts. Get much better indoor living comfort, health, safety & productivity while increasing your family's, firm's and community's net worth! Get a Free Comparative Cost Analysis In addition, local, state, and federal authorities and many electric utility companies provide incentives for highly energy efficient construction. Some of them and good resource sites are listed below for the USA and Canada.

Energy Efficient Mortgages for Owners

More and more lenders provide so-called "Energy Efficient Mortgages" (EEM). These mortgages recognize the fact that highly energy efficient homes cost less to operate. This in effect increases a borrower's income - money in your pocket or to qualify for higher mortgage amounts/shorter terms. Main Steps: Pre-qualify with an EEM Lender (see Dept. of Energy Listing) Evaluation of home's energy efficiency (e.g. inspection by a professional energy rater, see RESnet Rating Providers)

State and Local Programs

State and local energy programs provide various rebates, incentives, and credits for energy efficient construction to builders and owners. Since so many programs are available, start by contacting your State Energy Office at the DoE's State Energy Program (SEP) website. Also check the Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy (DSIRE).

Electric Utility Programs

Also contact your local electric utility company to find out about any energy efficiency rebates, incentives and programs the company may offer for builders or owners. They have become extremely generous in many areas because these programs allow them to significantly delay multi-billion dollar infrastructure investments. The Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy (DSIRE) is a good starting point.

A multitude of financial and other incentives are available in Canada for energy-efficient new construction and retrofits. A good place to start researching them is the Office of Energy Efficiency. Some of the programs are: Mortgage Loan Insurance Premium Refund Energy Efficiency in New Homes Energy Efficiency in New Commercial Buildings For more info, also refer to the OEE's Directory of Programs or the Incentives Database by Environment Canada, which also include provincial and municipal incentives. Also contact your local utility company to find out about any energy efficiency rebates, incentives and programs the company may offer for builders or owners. They have become extremely generous in many areas because these programs allow them to significantly delay multi-billion dollar infrastructure investments.

advantages home owner

Advantages for Owners:

    Quiet, Healthy, Safe & Comfortable

  • More consistent indoor temperatures
  • Perfect for in-floor radiant heating
  • High STC ratings; deadens sound transmission
  • Minimized air infiltration - fewer allergens, improved indoor air quality
  • Inert materials: doesn’t support the growth of mold or mildew
  • Rated Fire Resistance (using ACI 216.1)
  • Not a food source for insects
  • Superior protection against disasters

    Durable & Sustainable

  • High R-Values (R-16 to R-33); Low U-Values (0.35 to 0.17)
  • Reduced HVAC requirements, heating and cooling costs
  • Thermal mass properties; ideal for passive solar designs
  • Lower life-cycle costs
  • Long-term building durability; life-cycle measured in centuries
green roof

Advantages for Contractors & Architects:

    Fast & Flexible

  • Lightweight, easy to handle - no forms to be stripped
  • Delivered to site ready to install - pre-cut at factory to exact specifications
  • Self-reinforced forms - temporary shoring only every 6'
  • Available in thicknesses of 7" to 12½", up to 34' [10.3m] free spans (and more with additional EPS caps or post-tensioning)
  • Slab thickness from 1¾" to 6" [45mm to 152mm]
  • Easily integrates with Quad-Lock ICF system
  • Lightweight

  • Lighter structure; eliminates 50% of conventional shoring
  • Reduces floor mass dead load by up to 50%
  • Reduces structural requirements for foundations and walls
  • Reduced Costs

  • No site waste
  • Uses less concrete & steel compared to traditional concrete slab
  • Lower workers-comp due to lightweight forms

Quad-Deck vs. Traditional Slab Single Span = 25' [7.6m], Floor Area = 1500 sqft [140m2]

Energy Performance & R-Values of Insulated Concrete Forms

Fact or Fiction: "The R-value tells me how much energy my house will use, right?" R-value measures the resistance a material has to heat transfer, this much is true. R-value alone, however, does not fully describe the energy performance of a building. Everyone in the ICF community knows that ICF buildings far outperform framed buildings with comparable stated R-values in terms of energy efficiency and comfort level, but why is that? Let's look at the main factors affecting actual energy performance of a building: Thermal Conduction, Convection, Radiation & Mass. Thermal Conduction is the heat transfer through a material by contact of one molecule to the next. This is the only factor an R-value measures.

  • We have all heard builders claim to build "R-13" or "R-21" walls with wood frame construction. The problem is that only the highest rated component in the wall - the insulation itself - performs at these stated R-values. A wood frame wall is made up of several components, not all of which have the same R-value. For instance, a 2x4 or 2x6 stud has an R-value of about R-5 or R-7. Every 16 inches or so, one of these components breaks the insulation layer and forms a "thermal bridge", conducting heat through the walls at high rates in addition to being a major cause of mold in standard construction. Adding up the area of studs, plates, and headers, 12% to 16% of the total wall area is an R-5 or R-7 thermal bridge, all detracting from the stated R-value. In addition, batt insulation tends to sag over time and leave spaces without any insulation! How can those builders claim only the highest-component R-value? From a whole-wall perspective, framed walls operate at far lower R-values - sometimes only half of the advertised value.

  • ICF walls consist of a center cavity to contain concrete between two layers of EPS which provide two largely continuous layers of insulation rated at R-22 and higher. From a whole-wall perspective, an ICF wall actually lives up to the advertised R-values because thermal bridging is absent.

Thermal conduction is not the only mode of energy loss in a building. In fact, conduction often contributes less to energy losses in wood frame buildings than convection, which is not even measured by R-values.

Numerous Air Leaks in typical homes

Source of energy loss in a wood frame building*
Thermal Convection is heat transfer by movement of currents within fluids (or gases). When considering energy performance of buildings, it's the air moving between the inside and outside or "air infiltration". A common measurement is 'Air Changes per Hour' at a blower-door induced pressure differential of 50 Pascal (ACH50). US Energy Star standards for new homes require less than 4-7 ACH50. In comparison, Canadian R-2000 standards are 1.5 ACH50, and Swedish standards are 0.5 ACH50 or less.

  • In wood frame buildings convection can be felt as drafts and is usually the biggest source of energy loss. Air infiltration accounts for up to 40% of the energy losses of a wood framed structure. Energy escapes via conditioned air leaking through thousands of cracks, openings, and joints between all the "matchsticks" of the building shell. Major culprits include framing connections, wall, floor & roof intersections, shrinkage of wood and caulking, and poor installation of components and sealants. A typical new wood frame home has between 1.75 and 3 air changes per hour (ACH50) and after some years it's often between 5 and 10 ACH50 as the wood shrinks and sealants deteriorate. Old wood frame homes commonly have 10 to 20 ACH50.

  • ICF walls & roofs are an effective air (and vapour) barrier because the concrete is solid without passages for air to leak, thus eliminating a major percentage of air infiltration. ICF homes consistently show results of 0.5 to 2.5 ACH50 and less, largely depending on the installed roof type and sealing. Most air infiltration in an ICF home is through a conventional roof and around windows & doors, so pay attention to these areas, e.g. use Quad-Deck for the roof of the building. Adequate air exchange in very airtight buildings must be ensured, typically using mechanical ventilation. Mechanical ventilation can be combined with 'heat/energy-recovery' units and/or ground heat exchangers for additional savings where conditions & budgets allow it.

Thermal Radiation transfers heat via electromagnetic waves, which for buildings are mostly the sun's rays. Depending on factors like site & location of the building and the prevailing climate, Passive Solar Building Design helps optimize a building's absorption and reflection of solar radiation through solar orientation, placement of windows and shading elements, choice of finishes, and incorporation of thermal mass. Thermal Mass refers to a material's capacity to store heat. Concrete and (Adobe) bricks have high thermal mass, which can act like a battery for heat. The classical use of thermal mass is in desert climates, where outside temperatures swing above inside temperatures during the day and below at night. High mass building shells can store the heat from the outside during the day and release some of that heat to the inside at night - keeping the inside comfortable using almost zero energy. In temperate climates, thermal mass is best used in combination with the principles of passive solar design, e.g. let the winter-sun heat high mass floors through windows.

  • Wood frame buildings have almost no thermal mass - unless finished with brick, which is on the wrong side of the insulation to be effective.

  • High mass construction built into ICF walls & floors can further reduce the requirements for active heating & cooling systems in some climates & projects. Another benefit is evident during power outages, when the interior temperature of ICF buildings takes days to change instead of hours.

All of the above translate into significant ongoing energy savings and savings from smaller sized HVAC equipment. Most current residential HVAC sizing software does not consider the effects of thermal mass. In response, the Portland Cement Association (PCA) developed HVAC Sizing software to estimate the required heating and cooling system capacity for single-family concrete homes based on a user-defined thermostat set point, house dimensions, construction materials, and location. Another energy simulation software is "Energy Plus" by the U.S. Department of Energy. *

Getting back to the original questions, the answers are:

"No - the R-value of one component alone does not tell you how your building will perform". Remember, the Building Code is only a MINIMUM standard and there are many factors that influence actual energy performance.

Yes - ICF buildings far outperform framed buildings despite similar stated R-values". The secret lies in the combination of reduced conduction & convection, and high thermal mass. The result is a building with a lower appetite for energy and more consistent and comfortable temperatures inside the building.

Every building should be considered from a 'whole system' perspective and designed using an integrated systems approach. Besides walls, roof and slab, windows also have a significant impact on performance since they usually make up 10% to 20% of the total wall area and range widely in energy performance. Energy Raters and some engineers & architects now offer energy modeling services that will paint a much more accurate picture of how your building will actually perform. A small investment in a computer analysis helps in formulating the most energy efficient design to save tens of thousands in energy costs, even hundreds of thousands for larger buildings, over a building's lifetime. Please contact us to get started.

Further Reading:

Five Steps to Zero Energy (Research) Thermal Metrics for High Performance Enclosure Walls: The Limitations of R-Value * Source: Portland Cement Association Technology Briefs

Thermal Imaging reveals the hidden truth

Conventional, recently built Office:

Church with Quad-Lock R-22 ICF (see testimonial, project info):

Light = Warm / High Energy Loss (when heating)

Dark = Cool / Low Energy Loss (when heating)

The images of these two nearby buildings were taken on the same winter day. The Quad-Lock church is largely cool outside due to the efficient walls and efficient windows. The conventional building's walls are almost as warm (light) as its windows - they are heating the environment and we can almost see the dollar bills being thrown out the windows.

Ultra Energy-Efficient

With Quad-Lock you can build walls with your choice of insulation value, from R-22 to R-59 - the highest ICF R-Values in North America. Choose the optimum R-Value depending on your local climate and energy-saving goals. High insulation values combine with low air infiltration and the thermal mass of the concrete to keep occupants comfortable, healthy, and productive, while saving significantly on energy costs.

Fast, Simple, Accurate

The Quad-Lock Insulated Concrete Forms are infinitely versatile, allowing design and construction flexibility unmatched in other types of concrete forming!


Quad-Lock is an engineered system - designed by builders for builders. Approved by the International Code Council and many other code agencies, and tested by Intertek Testing Services,

Safe, Fire Rated

Quad-Lock Panels are manufactured from high density, biologically safe, fire retardant expanded polystyrene (EPS). The Quad-Lock Building System will not support combustion. The fire resistance of a finished Quad-Lock wall with 8" concrete thickness is 4 hours per UL tests.


Quad-Lock construction gives you a solid, reinforced concrete wall - your choice of 4 to 12 inches thick. No foam tunnels through the concrete. No thin/thick sections. No worries about rotting. No insects crawling through your walls. Just solid, uniform, insulated concrete walls with standard rebar.

World Class Support

Your local dealer is equipped to answer your questions, prepare detailed estimates, and assist at the jobsite. Local Quad-Lock Field Representatives are also ready to assist with quantity pricing, job site training, product seminars and training. Our Installation Video, Product Manual, and other informative technical and promotional literature tells you exactly how to build with Quad-Lock. Read more about Value & Service.