Experts Look Forward to the Next 20 Years – Our Anniversary Issue
Thanks For Reading Our 20th Anniversary Issue!
From the beginning of our magazine 20 years ago, the publishing and online environment has changed tremendously. While our staff combed through the archives for a copy of the first issue we produced there was none available. At some point, these early issues got placed onto CDs. However, those CDs contained mostly photos. While I couldn’t look at the first issue and compare it to this one, a little research did reveal some other tidbits about the history of the magazine.
To help us look forward to what the next 20 years of the cement and concrete industries might look like, we asked industry experts from many different fields to tell us their “20-year outlook.” Here’s what they told us. — Vanessa Salvia
National Ready Mixed Concrete Association
Insulating concrete forms and other construction methods that minimize labor and cost will become the dominant form of concrete construction and compete with wood frame, steel frame and masonry construction both for single family and larger buildings including multifamily, hotels and other commercial buildings. Stricter energy codes and fire codes, disaster resilient standards and demands from communities and building tenants for higher quality construction will make concrete construction the material of choice for buildings.
Concrete will become more environmentally friendly as producers use high-performance cements with more fly ash, slag, limestone and other materials to supplement portland cement. The environmental footprint of concrete will eventually approach zero as cement manufacturers develop new polymer cements and alternates to portland cement. At first the cost will be high, but as demands for lower environmental footprint takes hold, the demand for low impact cement and concrete will grow, driving down the cost.
There will be more demand for offsite construction and prefabrication in the future. The objective will be to reduce on site labor. Making precast concrete panels and panelizing systems like ICFs in a factory will become more prevalent, driving down the need for onsite labor and helping concrete remain competitive.
Automation will be key to concrete advances in the future. Homes and buildings will be built using 3-D printers on site. Large sophisticated pumping machines will be driven to a job site, concrete made on site or delivered to the site in driverless concrete trucks. Combined with incredible advances in building information modeling, a set of plans will be electronically entered into the large-scale “concrete” printer and the incredible machine will extrude the concrete into the shape of the building. At first it will be unreinforced concrete walls, but as advances in technology progress, floors, reinforcing steel, insulation, windows, doors and finishes will be attached directly to the freshly placed concrete. Finishes will be reduced since concrete will be colored and textured and left exposed.
Executive Vice President of Structures and Sustainability
IntegraSpec, ICF Manufacturer
The ICF industry has progressed consistently over the past 20 years. Many changes have taken place and new opportunities have been created. When I started into this industry 20 years ago I saw a great potential in building with ICF material. It solved all of the envelope issues that building with conventional materials created. You were able to set up an insulated forming system that would provide you with the air barrier, vapor barrier, insulation, studs and concrete reinforced structure all in one assembly. This eliminated the issues and coordination required with sub trades.
An IntegraSpec ICF structure total eliminates any thermal losses. The window and doors have ICF bucks that prevent thermal transfer. The true observation of thermal performance is a thermal image camera. An ICF building photographs blue, implying no heat loss or heat gain. A wood structure looks like mustard and ketchup because it is leaking heat everywhere. The R-value is a number that implies resistance to heat loss over time. The ICF structure is a conductor so R is not the true factor as the ICF building is a heat sink and will store the heat in the walls. The ground source energy keeps the shell at 55 degrees like a cave above ground.
What does the next 20 years bring?
IntegraSpec was involved with the new code changes in California coming up in 2020 where all new residential structures are to be “net zero.” We have been doing this now for the last 10 years. Our structures have concrete walls, floors and roofs. We complete the thermal envelope to the max and create a cave above ground.
This technique is being used for every building envelope possible. The ICF system can be used for residential, institutional, commercial, industrial, agricultural and military applications. ICF buildings reduce the carbon footprint, reduce energy consumption and provide a sustainable structure that is fire proof, earthquake proof, hurricane proof, tornado proof, termite proof and will last thousands of years.
This industry is at the ground level of its opportunity. The pioneers that have brought this technology to this point have created an opportunity for those that follow to take this to the next level and above. All of the tests and compliances have been completed along with successful projects to showcase. There is a history of projects that prove this technology works and will continue to succeed. The ICF industry will need a lot of new installers to help with the demand that is created.
You will see Millennium subdivisions that are all net zero replacing conventional track buildings. The sustainable green movement will be led by ICF technology as this is the “true green core” to start with. Anything else is green washing. The only limitation is your imagination.
North America ICF Specialist
IntegraSpec Executive and Distribution Manager
ICF Supply Co.
In the last 18 years I have been involved in more residential projects than commercial. Part of that I believe is because the decision makers in residential projects are usually only one or two people. We all know how difficult “built by committee” is. What I’ve noticed is that most of my residential clients were brave people to begin with. For example they are state troopers, firefighters and even a former Navy Seal. Some did not have dangerous careers but were nonetheless brave people just for being the owner and general contractor.
In that same recent time period there have been some very impressive commercial projects completed in all areas of commercial construction. I have seen hotels, movie theaters, big box stores, high-rise, mid-rise and just about anything you can imagine. Every one of these projects, especially in the early years, took a great deal of courage by the owners, design and construction teams. It is because of these projects and the data we keep getting regarding their energy-efficiency, maintenance requirements and air quality that new design teams are willing to specify ICFs on their projects. This is only going to continue and we will be seeing more and more ICF project in years to come.
One recent trend I have seen lately is more ICF frostwalls in commercial projects. It seems that some would like to test the waters before jumping right in. I’ve seen some retail and school addition projects with ICF frostwalls. I even had a general contractor come to me and tell me he wanted to use ICFs for the frostwall for a storage facility. Even though he had conventional forms he wanted the ICFs because they were faster and easier for his crew to install. He then contacted the owner and engineer to get the plans changed and he was ready to get started.
It will always come down to someone or a team of people making a choice whether to use ICFs or some other building material. But the way the building codes are moving to require better and more continuous insulation along with the increase in wind resistance, building with ICFs just makes good sense. I am expecting to see ICFs become standard practice in commercial construction in the years to come. (See page 6 of the November 2016 issue of Concrete Homes for the Scottish castle that Jim Ryan built using ICFs.)
ICF Supply Co., ICF sales, accessories and technical support for the builder
West Hartford, Connecticut
ICF-designed homes and buildings have been a major part of our projects for the past four years. The next 20 years will include an increasing and eventually an unprecedented use of insulated concrete form construction. We are excited that this simple building element has been providing our clients with safe, economical and indestructible projects.
From modern design to our medieval Scottish castle and everything in between, ICF has been the perfect exterior wall system. The future of building, as dictated by my clients and all indicators, will be for our homes and buildings to keep us safe, comfortable and healthy. With ICF and other wonderful products, the future is here! Now we can continue our focus on creative design for easy living. (See page 6 of the November 2016 issue of Concrete Homes for the Scottish castle that Leigh Overland designed using ICFs.)
Logix, ICF Manufacturer
By 2037 energy modeling software will finally accurately model the actual thermal performance and energy savings of ICFs. And in fact, this is closer than some would think—the ICFMA (Insulating Concrete Forms Manufacturers Association) has just completed a study whose findings will likely factor into these refined algorithms in some way in the not-too-distant future.
This will propel ICFs to become the preferred method for developers, governments and designers throughout the world to construct high-performance and net-zero homes and buildings. ICFs will become the conventional method to form residential basements. And we’ll also see 100-story buildings built with ICFs.
ICFs will be taught in every trade school and architectural program. Innovations in EPS will result in a typical R-value of R7/inch and typical ICF wall assemblies will offer R40. Concrete is going to get stronger, rebar may disappear and core thicknesses will get narrower.
Vice President of Marketing at Logix ICF Ltd.
Chair of The Council Of ICF Industries
NUDURA, ICF Manufacturer
Over the last 20 years the ICF Industry has went through a few growing pains. Like every journey, there are things we learn that make us stronger whether they are taken from successes or failures. As building and energy codes get more stringent, it is becoming harder and harder for wood frame and brick and block structures to adapt and compete. Through this journey the ICF industry has confirmed that when you combine the resiliency of reinforced concrete with the efficiency of insulated concrete forms we have a recipe for the best buildings on the planet.
The performance data of an ICF ironically has been one of our biggest stumbling blocks. Our lack of good tracking methods combined with the real performance has created a too-good-to-be true story. Fortunately through our persistence and partnerships with the professional design communities we now have enough hard data that even the biggest skeptics cannot deny.
Although previous ICF associations have failed to bring our Industry together in a true working environment, the newest organization is now moving us swiftly in the right direction. Through the collaborative efforts of the Insulating Concrete Forms Manufacturers Association (ICFMA) we have managed to raise the bar to a new level. By pooling our data and resources we have produced hard data that backs the results recorded by countless consumers and design professionals over the last 30 years or so.
As we move into the next 20 years I expect there will be a few more learning curves but if we take what we have learned from the past 20 and focus hard on expanding the pool of trained installers, our biggest problem will be where to build our new facilities.
President & CEO
A Founding Member & former Vice Chair of the ICFMA
NUDURA, ICF Manufacturer
Water, cement, sand and stone are the makings of the best building material on earth. That is what my grandfather told me and to this day I believe it. Certainly, the ingredients have changed. In the last20 years, the formulas for making a batch of ready mix concrete has begun to look like a chemistry major’s notebook. But one thing stands true and that fact is concrete is man’s greatest building material. It can transmit extreme loads, it is flexible for design and when it hardens is nearly indestructible. The challenge for the future will be delivering a completed system that is labor saving, environmentally responsible and with mitigated risk.
When we assess, the value provided by concrete structures, the future is bright. The demand for safer, healthier and environmentally responsible construction will be the sustenance for industry growth. NUDURA is optimistic about the future of concrete construction and how advanced forming technology will play a part in greater adaptation of insulated concrete forms.
Less than 10 years ago the use of cast in place concrete to build educational facilities was not even a consideration. Now through the use of advanced insulated concrete forms it has become the norm in many places. ICF has helped concrete be better, create a better basement, safer above grade structures, healthier schools and more energy efficient commercial buildings; concrete is just better when encapsulated in foam. Not only is the structure enhanced, the foam aids with proper hydration, will hold the steel in a proper structural position and creates a barrier against the detrimental effects of time.
This has not only changed the construction industry by creating new opportunities for the use of concrete materials and by creating new business opportunities for contractors, but it has led to great changes for educational facilities. These schools proved to save significant amounts of energy, were healthier and became the model for sustainability.
I expect the battle between wood, steel and concrete will rage throughout time, but I am confident that concrete will be the structural element that will be featured by the most discerning architects, engineers and contractors.
Concrete contractors face challenges ahead as we look to increased demand on a shrinking pool of labor, increased cost of safety and the continued focus on enhanced efficiency of structures. The ICF systems can help address each of these concerns. Through our continued focus on training we prepare new contractors to make the conversion to permanent foam forms. The material is lighter, easier to construct on the site and can eliminate separate sub trades needed for insulation and framing. While not all concrete related structures will benefit from an ICF, all above grade spaces that are controlled for temperature or air quality should consider the benefits it offers.
It’s hard to say exactly how a yard of ready mix will be produced, the recycled content that may be included or how sustainable resourcing will be employed. One thing is certain, 20 years from now there will certainly be more achievement attributed to the use of concrete. As a leader in advanced forming, NUDURA looks forward to being a critical part of this story.
U.S. Director of Sales
Concrete Decor Magazine
As a former tradesman and later the founder of Concrete Decor magazine, I admit I’ve developed somewhat of an attitude, as well as a vision, for the trades overall and particularly for our industry when it comes to what we need to succeed today and in the future.
As the publisher of Concrete Decor for the past 17 years, I have the unique opportunity to talk to contractors, supply stores, industry organizations and product manufacturers every day. What became increasingly apparent to me during the formative years of Concrete Decor was the obvious sense of enthusiasm and passion I kept noticing among people at all levels of involvement.
They weren’t only excited about this industry’s products and the possibilities they afforded to a building project, especially where concrete was involved, they also had an unquenchable desire to learn and to share their experiences and knowledge with others. From my perspective, this energy created such an impressive draw from outside the industry that it created somewhat of a melting pot within the industry.
A friend once told me that when customers questioned his pricing on an estimate, his response was often, “Pay with peanuts and you get monkeys.” That was funny to hear at first but so very true. There’s a reason why manufacturers’ product labels often include the language “For Professional Use Only.” It’s language we must never take lightly.
Product manufacturers who require or strongly recommend installers know how their products work before use assume that installers have a reasonable level of knowledge and experience with the products. Resellers, as well, must have a good working knowledge of those products to provide the technical support a contractor often needs.
Considering the myriad job site conditions a contractor must face each day, it’s almost essential that contractors have as many friends and colleagues at their side throughout a project. If that chain of support breaks, the project is likely to fail and I believe the industry starts to fail as well.
Decorative and architectural concrete have created an ever-increasing need for knowledgeable tradesmen and women. Consumers today have expectations toward concrete that go far beyond its understandable durability. Ready-mix suppliers now offer 800+ color options.
Product manufacturers have solutions for just about any kind of concrete surface. However, it doesn’t matter how pretty an application on concrete may look because if the substrate it’s being applied to isn’t properly installed or prepared, the finished product will ultimately fail — creating an obvious pitfall in the industry’s desire to advance.
On the brighter side, I have an unquestionable faith in our industry. During the last 30 years, the level of quality and workmanship has grown noticeably stronger. A survey of our industry coverage online at www.concretedecor.net will make a believer out of anyone.
The other day a friend of mine told me that our generation is the future of this industry. We are the leadership of this craft and we are the people that must understand that we’re the ones responsible for guiding this industry forward. Suddenly, I realize that other problems don’t seem quite so big because it’s much more important that we keep our attention focused on the long-term outlook.
Decorative concrete is bright and beautiful, incredibly durable, environmentally friendly, LEED approved and it has success etched all over it. It’s an American-born industry that’s continually growing, so getting it right industry-wise here at home creates a recipe for success wherever the world wants us.
Publisher of Concrete Decor Magazine
Founder of the Concrete Decor RoadShow and Producer of the Concrete Decor Show
ICF Smarthome Builder
The year is 2037. One of the biggest expenses in any ICF build is not the materials, but labor. That amount could easily be 30 to 40 percent of project costs. Wastage and environmental concerns on the disposal of excess ICF material is also a big issue when dealing with ICF blocks. The labor of cutting the blocks to size to fit any wall length or irregular shaped wall can easily add up to additional manhours on the site. Addressing the building corners that are not all 90 degrees can also become a cost obstacle both on manually fabricating the corner on site together with labor costs. To drastically reduce the expenditure of these costs, completing the project in a timely fashion and creating an eco friendly environment with zero wastage is necessary if the ICF Industry wants to attain a truly green product.
The only way to meet these goals of cutting cost with zero ICF wastage is to have an ICF 3D printing machines together with raw ICF material on site. As the price of 3D printers for both consumer and commercial use continues to drop, a 3D ICF printer will become commonplace to the top ICF builders in the nation. This modern ICF printer will have the ability to produce exact wall lengths, curved walls or create any degree of ICF block needed to complete the project. Standard ICF blocks will still be available on site but all specialty joint connections will be handle with blocks produced by this ICF 3D machine.
No cutting of ICF blocks will ever be needed and this will have zero waste. Additionally, built in wall studs whether it be made of wood, composite or a poly-based material can be customized into any ICF block as required by the project. Again this can only be achieved with a 3D ICF printer. These ICF 3D printers will have material adjustments with the ability to increase or decrease insulation thickness or tensile strength depending on the environmental location of the project. Higher insulation factors can be changed not necessarily by increasing the size of the ICF insulation but by additional ICF additives to make ICF block resilient to either a hot or extremely cold temperatures. (Blanch built Maui, Hawaii’s first ICF home. See page 6 of the January 2017 issue for that article.)
ICF Builder, Hawaii
This article appeared in our March 2017 edition.