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ICF Construction, a sustainable way to build.
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ICF Construction, a sustainable way to build.

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ICF Construction, a sustainable way to build.

With lots of people in the market for a new home up and down the UK, the property market is absolutely booming at the moment. With this recent boom, house prices are at an all-time high. Because of this, it sometimes begs the question. Why buy when you could build instead?

The UK has seen a massive upturn in the number of homes that are now self-built, with an estimated 7-10% of newly built homes now thought to be self builds. It is truly exciting to see what the future holds for self-building in the UK.

Why are self-build homes becoming so popular? There are a few reasons that certainly contribute to this sharp rise.

While there are lots of different factors that can influence why people would want to self-build. The critical reason is that it allows for the homeowner to live exactly where they want while staying in a home that they have designed themselves, down to every last specification.

It has also been found that there are many financial benefits to self-building. A self-build home sells for an average of 25% more than the initial build and material costs. There are also numerous tax advantages to self-building. You could be entitled to capital gains exemption when the property is completed. Also, when the self-builder lives in the home upon completion, it could be entitled to a zero rating of VAT.

Building with ICF

When we delve even deeper into why self-building is taking the UK by storm, there are many other reasons why someone would choose this over buying an already completed property.

Self-builders often opt for Insulated Concrete Formwork, or ICF for short, as their main building component. The ICFA describes this as an 'in-situ concrete building system that offers significantly higher performance over some more traditional construction methods.'

ICF homes are often built with design principles that allow their users to enjoy significantly higher levels of comfort (heating and cooling) while using little-to-no energy to achieve this. This is primarily due to the high insulation levels that ICF provides to a home. The completed house can often generate heat from items found commonly in a household, such as ovens, computers, and fridges. Candles and lightbulbs too! Body heat from the home's occupants is also a natural heat conductor.

All of these help to bring the bills down when teamed with the remarkable insulating properties of ICF. But that is not all. This also significantly reduces your home's carbon emissions too, making your self-build a much more sustainable property.

What is ICF?

Often coined 'adult LEGO'. ICF is a block component that has the ability to lock together, negating the need for mortar and bedding materials. This provides a formwork for which concrete is poured into then left to set. Once completed, the user will enjoy the unrivalled insulating and airtight properties for their home.

How was ICF Construction invented?

ICF actually dates back to the 1940s, when countries were rebuilding post World War Two. August Schnell and Alex Bosshard designed the first documented development of an ICF-style building. The two did this by casting a wooden fibre cement material into hollow-cored blocks. These were then strengthened with concrete and steel.

Moving on to the 1960s, a man named Werner Gregori had now filed the first patent for hollow polystyrene blocks that we know as ICF today. It is believed that Gregori first came up with the idea when using a drinks cooler made of foam. He realised that if a hollow block could provide insulating properties, it would eliminate the requirement for significant construction overheads when building with concrete.

Key benefits of ICF

Reduced running costs

On average, the running costs of a self-build home are only twenty-five percent of those of a standard new-build home. This figure is representative of homes built in the UK. When the self-build is constructed in a warmer climate, this can be brought down even more, with some seeing very minimal running costs.


An ICF home is incredibly sustainable, particularly when built to a Passivhaus standard. This eco-friendly building system does wonders for the planet due to the primary focus on airtightness and insulation. When a home is built using ICF, users will find that they have a significant reduction in the demand for central heating, therefore reducing the demand and use of traditional boilers, so in turn, fossil fuels. Air retention throughout the home plays a crucial part in this.


It should come as no surprise that a home built with ICF will last quite some time. This is because they are built with longevity in mind from the very first design stages right through to the final build. Innovation and longevity are at the forefront of this fabric first approach to construction. The extremely high-quality materials allow for your home to stand the test of time.

Insulated Foundation Slabs

While ICF walls play a crucial part in the above benefits, they cannot take all the credit. An ICF home also gets a lot of its heat retention and insulating properties from Insulated Foundation Slabs.

It is always said that the basis of any great structure comes from laying a solid foundation, and that is no different when a home is built with ICF.

Often, when someone is building with ICF, they will opt to incorporate an Insulated Foundation Slab into their building plans too. Similar to ICF walls, Insulated Foundation Slabs are pre-cut pieces of ICF that are laid on the ground once a self-build site has been excavated. Once the slab has been formed, it is then filled with concrete and left to set.

When the slab is set, it is ready for the ICF walls to be built on top of it. An Insulated Foundation Slab offers unrivalled insulation plus can be quickly and easily installed on any self-build project.

This article was provided and written by Econekt, a low-energy and Passivhaus self-build construction company based in the UK.

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ICF Construction, a sustainable way to build.

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