Emerson works hard to market his insulated wall options. He goes to home shows and has created a 40-page booklet about his insulated wall system that he goes through with clients. "I've found that my competitors can do insulated poured walls too, but they don't know how the system works, how it's put together. My marketing allows me to be in the forefront," Emerson explains. "The marketing is key for a successful business in construction. Everyone is so oriented on the lowest price, but this allows people who are marketing-oriented to get into another market. I'm a poured wall contractor, but I'm also an energy efficient poured wall contractor."
Concrete contractors can choose from dozens of ICF manufacturers. The systems generally consist of two pieces of polystyrene foam connected by a plastic or steel tie. Some systems come pre-assembled, others are assembled in the field. Corner blocks, bucks and deck forms are available with many of the systems.
Randy Davis, president of DAK Construction out of Jacksonville, Fla., is a general contractor who got into ICF building about 10 years ago. Since then he has become a distributor for Reward Walls ICFs for northeast Florida. "When you have a system that lends itself to doing corners, windows and openings yet still gives you the strength of poured concrete, it made a lot of sense to me to get into that field. With the energy efficiency and the strength, it was a no-brainer for me."
Florida's severe weather and termite problem make concrete construction an attractive option to Floridians. Adding insulation to the equation makes it even more attractive; ICFs are efficient at maintaining indoor heating temperatures in the winter, but even more efficient when it comes to maintaining air conditioning temperatures in the summer. Davis is working on his fourth design/build ICF church in seven years and has seen a lot of success with that market because of ICF's noise insulation factor and energy efficiency. "We built a 7,700-sq.-ft. church in Fleming Island. Their monthly electric bill was $139 in the winter and $249 in the summer, which is less than my 2,000-sq.-ft. house," he says.
Davis finds a lot of people learn about ICF construction through the Internet, and he gets four or five leads a month through the Reward Walls website. "The other thing about this product is it sells itself," he says. "When you start putting it up in a neighborhood, people see it and wonder 'What is this white foam block?' because it's very visible."
Davis says business has been good for him in the last few years and he's seen ICF popularity trickle down from the upper-end housing market to smaller homes. "In our company, we have the capability to do a lot of different things. If I've got a building going I can pour the concrete, frame it and roof it, so we stay afloat no matter what. But with ICFs it has been consistent and has allowed me to hire more people because we have a steady work flow there where my houses or my commercial construction does ebb and flow a little more," he explains.
Insulated walls in tilt-up construction is a growing market, especially in the commercial industry. C.E. Doyle, LLC out of Campbellsport, Wis., is a masonry concrete contractor and tilt-up subcontractor. The company started performing tilt-up in 1989, with all its tilt-up projects utilizing the Thermomass insulation system. Doyle says C.E. Doyle's decision to use Thermomass was based heavily on its ability to provide a tilt-up panel that avoids thermal bridging, since the insulation spans the entire panel and the connectors don't transmit heat or cold through the insulation panel.
"The other benefit of the fiber composite rods is they allow the individual wythes to act independently of each other," he explains. "For example, if you have a 90 degree day on the outside and you want to keep the inside at 60 degrees, the concrete on the outside is going to expand from the heat. This system allows that to expand on the exterior and have independent movement from the interior wythe."
Insulated tilt-up wall panels have opened up new markets for C.E. Doyle, having success on several types of buildings including commercial, industrial, warehousing and manufacturing spaces, even a dog kennel. Doyle says his company constructs a lot of freezer and cooler space because of the energy efficiency performance of the insulated tilt-up panels.
"Initially we had to market the insulated tilt-up heavily because there wasn't any tilt-up being done in this state," he explains. "Since tilt-up has become accepted in the state of Wisconsin, now we have a customer base that looks for it. We have builders, architects and designers calling us every month to find out if it's a viable option for their project."