Fire-Resistant Construction: Enhancing Home Safety with ICFs



This year’s El Niño phenomenon has caused widespread drought which places many areas at risk of wild fires. As climate change continues to affect our weather, the instances of wildfires, floods and high wind events will continue to increase. Every year, fires claim more Canadian and American lives than all other natural phenomenon combined. If you are planning a new build or a renovation, building to meet the changing climate will ensure the safety of your home and family.

Building for Fire Resistance

When you’re considering the kinds of buildings that would best protect your family and home from fire, ask the fire department. The Las Vegas fire department is combining greener building techniques and higher safety features with ICF buildings. ICF fire halls will reduce energy consumption by a whopping 45% to 50%. Add to that increased protection from floods, high wind speeds and fire, and ICF construction provides unprecedented protection for firemen and staff.

How ICFs Perform in a Fire

ICFs are leading the pack when it comes to fire safety as they provide a solid concrete exterior with a 3- to 4-hour fire rating. While the exterior Styrofoam insulation simply melts off, the solid concrete core will provide your family with the protection they need to get to safety.

Concrete doesn’t burn like homes made from other materials. Even steel can bend and soften which compromises building safety. In ‘fire-wall’ tests, ICF walls have been subjected to continuous gas flames with temperatures exceeding 2000°F for as long as four hours. Not one of the walls made from ICFs have failed structurally. This shows up well when compared to wood-frame homes which typically collapse after being exposed to fire for an hour or less. Wood-frame homes are structurally unstable much sooner and deaths and injury can occur from collapsing walls and falling debris.

If you are worried about the fumes from melting Styrofoam, a study by the Southwest Pacific Research Institute found the emissions from burning Styrofoam are “no more toxic” than smoke from wood-frame housing.

So reliable and strong are ICFs that they are also being utilized in military buildings. In 2003, the military conducted a series of blast resistance tests at the Quantico Marine Base where ICF walls survived explosions as close as six feet. Another test in 2007 in Florida, showed ICFs could withstand sustained fire from a 50-caliber machine gun.

“Since September 11th, all military buildings must have force protection built in,” says a spokesman for the military. “ICF construction is the most cost-effective way to achieve that.”

Take a look at this military blast test for Amvic ICFs.

The Portland Cement Association: “Of all construction materials, concrete is one of the most resistant to heat and fire. Experience shows that concrete structures are more likely to remain standing through fire than are structures of other materials. Unlike wood, concrete does not burn. Unlike steel, it does not soften and bend.”

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